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L.A. Unified urged to remain vigilant after settling sex abuse claims

| November 21, 2014 at 03:40 pm

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An attorney representing plaintiffs in the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal thanked the L.A. Unified School District for agreeing to a $139-million settlement Friday but urged school officials to continue to push to safeguard children in the system.

“No more rhetoric,” Brian Claypool said outside the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse where jury selection in the case began earlier this week. “Today is not the end of the Miramonte child abuse scandal, it is the beginning of change.”

Claypool vowed to ensure that L.A. Unified makes fundamental changes to its policies and approach to sexual abuse. Growing emotional, he cited as example one of his clients — a young girl who told her counselor that she didn’t want to live anymore. “She envisioned herself walking to the edge of the pier and jumping off in the ocean,” Claypool said. “That’s an example of the depth of grief that these families have suffered and we wanted the LAUSD to acknowledge that and take responsibility for that and compensate these families.”

John Manly, another attorney who handled the civil cases, said there was “a volcano of evidence” against the district. He said that L.A. Unified settled the case because there was “a legal gun pointed at their head.”

Manly also took to task the Board of Education. saying the seven members never held a public meeting on Miramonte; rather, he said they handled the matter entirely in secret.

“If I was a board member of this district, I would hang my head in shame,” Manly said.

The pact will settle about 150 legal claims from Miramonte parents and children who chose to push forward with the civil trial. Dozens of claims were settled last year for about $30 million.

Westminster child abuse claims: what do we know?

| November 20, 2014 at 03:04 pm

 Cyril Smith
 
Police are investigating possible murders linked to Elm Guest House in south-west London after claims of a cover-up
 

What do we know about politicians and child abuse at Westminster?

A number of allegations have been made. So far the only politician to have been implicated is the Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, but other unnamed politicians were also alleged to have been involved in a Westminster paedophile ring. Smith is alleged to have abused boys at Knowl View residential school in Rochdale and at Elm Guest House, in Barnes in south-west London, in the 1970s and 80s. Greater Manchester police are investigating allegations of abuse by Smith at Knowl View, where Smith was a governor. Other MPs were said to have attended the Elm Guest House. After claims made by the Labour MP Tom Watson in 2012, the Metropolitan police launched Operation Fairbank into child abuse at the guesthouse. Watson said there was “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”.

A dossier of evidence of an alleged paedophile ring, involving several MPs, including Smith, and other public figures, was handed to the Home Office in 1983, by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, who died in 1995. The 40-page dossier has since been destroyed or lost, according to a Home Office review. The Crown Prosecution Service has conceded that Smith should have been prosecuted after rejecting claims against him in 1970, 1998 and 1999.

What happened at Elm Guest House?

At least three MPs were reported to have been questioned in 1982 after a police raid on the guesthouse. It was reported at the time that it was being used as a brothel where children as young as 10 were abused. Two children living in the house were taken into care. The guesthouse was reported to have been used as a brothel for two years before it was raided. Officers found whips, chains and ropes. “They catered for every kind of perversion,” an officer told the News of World at the time. The owners of Elm Guest House, Haroon and Carol Kasir, were subsequently convicted of running a brothel. The property was later turned into flats.

What are the new allegations?

Vishal’s father, Vishambar Mehrotra, said he recorded a telephone call with a male prostitute in 1981 who said Vishal could have been taken to Elm Guest House after being abducted. Mehrotra, a retired magistrate and solicitor, said the police refused to investigate, because clients of the guesthouse included judges and politicians. The prostitute “talked about judges and politicians who were abusing little boys,” Mehrotra said. “It is clear to me there has been a huge cover-up.”

What are the police investigating?

Last week the Metropolitan police said they were investigating possible murders linked to the Elm Guest House as part of Operation Midland. An alleged victim claimed to have witnessed the murder of three boys at the guesthouse. One of the victims was reported to have been strangled by a Conservative MP in a sex game. This operation was prompted by Operation Fernbridge, a wider investigation into a child abuse ring connected to the Elm Guest House. Operation Midland is specifically looking at homicides linked to child abuse.

Source: The Guardian

Child abuse case reopened against Dwight Howard; new evidence emerges

| November 19, 2014 at 07:22 am

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Two days after being cleared of charges in a child abuse case in Florida, police in Cobb County, Ga., confirmed a case against Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is being investigated again.

The reopened case, reported Tuesday by NBC News, was originally from this summer. Sgt. Dana Pierce told NBC the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families in Florida mailed Cobb County Police a report alleging an incident of child abuse involving Howard. But at the time police did not believe they possessed enough evidence to pursue it further.

However, Pierce told NBC that police are reviewing new information that has become available over the past 48 hours that convinced the department to reopen the case. Pierce did not provide any details into the case, choosing to protect the alleged victim.

“We will methodically process this case,” Pierce told the Los Angeles Times.

TMZ reported Sunday on a case involving Howard and his ex-girlfriend — reported by The Orlando Sentinel as Royce Reed, the child’s mother and a former Orlando Magic dancer. The eight-time NBA All-Star was cleared, despite the examining doctor’s apparent findings and a police report that Howard admitted spanking his son with a belt.

According to TMZ, Dr. Kesler (first name unknown) believed the alleged bruises and abrasions to Howard’s 6-year-old son Braylon Reed were “consistent with Braylon being struck with the buckle end of the belt . . . with excessive force, resulting in soft tissue injuries such as bruising and abrasions.” NBC reports that Howard admitted using a belt on the boy to police.

However, TMZ reports that Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) decided the allegations of abuse were “not substantiated” — which in Florida means presence of “credible evidence” but not enough for authorities to pursue legal action.

Howard’s attorney David Oscar Markus responded to child abuse allegations against his client through a statement to the Sentinel, in which he dubbed the accusations as “frivolous” and portayed them as part of a custody battle for the boy.

“It is troubling to see a mother use her son as a pawn against his father, which is what is happening in this case,” the statement reads. “Dwight Howard will continue to act in the best interest of his children and do whatever is necessary to protect their welfare and best interests.”

Reed, a former participant in the VH1 show “Basketball Wives”, launched a response over Instagram attacking Howard further. (EDITOR’S NOTE: If the Instagram post does not show at first, try refreshing the page.)1

Howard and Reed faced off in court in 2010 after the basketball star accused her of violating an order demanding that she never speak of Howard to the media. Howard was due $500,000 after winning his case, but the Sentinel says he has not been able to collect that full amount from Reed.

Howard was born and raised in the Atlanta area (Cobb County is less than 20 miles away).

Source: Fox Sports

Local Doctors Concerned about Child Abuse Deaths

| November 14, 2014 at 09:00 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Child abuse in Duval County is a growing problem and what you may not know is that about 80 percent of the abuse is inflicted by a parent.

On Wednesday, Donald James Crystalus was charged with murder in the death of his 4-month-old son, Gabriel. According to JSO, Crystalus caused severe head injuries to his son which led to his death.

President of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Michael Aubin, says the number of suspected child abuse cases is concerning.

According to Aubin, there have been 131 cases of suspected abuse reported at the hospital so far this year and 25 of those came in the last three months.

“In the last week we have seen three cases of suspected child abuse here at Wolfson,” said Aubin. “That is really hard on everyone, including the staff.”

According to Aubin, all three children died.

“These cases happen usually one at a time….everyone says, ‘oh, isn’t that horrible?’ and then it goes away and when you see three in a row and we have another one that we are investigating…you realize have to do something different in this community,” said Aubin.

Carmella Prescott works for the Daniel Kids Foundation. She spends her days visiting homes and speaking with parents and children in abusive relationships. She says she has sympathy for everyone involved.

“They are not monsters, they are humans and they are just like us. They have stress and they have things going on and they got lost in the moment and they didn’t have the help they need at that time and it’s sad,” said Prescott.

According to Prescott, the numbers of child abuse cases are rising in Duval County. The trend for child abuse in Duval County mirrors the statewide trend and the trend for abuse is increasing over the past few years. For example, in 2003-2006 there were 2,711 child abuse cases reported for children ages 5-11. Then, in 2010-2012 there were 2,904 reported, per the Florida Department of Health.

In Florida, there are over four million children in in the population and there have been over 223,000 reports of abuse with over 500 cases involving child deaths. Nationally in that time period, there were over 1,500 reports of child abuse and neglect deaths.

The recent tragedy where a Duval County father is charged for killing his son for crying too much has this topic of child abuse on the forefront. First Coast News reached out to expert at Project SOS with tips on what parents should do when their anger spiral out of control.

Jacquelyn Hatcher is a certified life coach with Project SOS. She teaches parents where to turn when they get angry.

“It all starts with a Trigger,” said Hatcher. “Usually triggers happen because of past relationship problem, something you’ve seen in your past…or as a child and you don’t learn how to work through.”

Hatcher says communication is key.

“What we promote is for parents to take a break…breathing activities. Maybe stepping away from the situation. I truly promote exercise,” said Hatcher.

She says it is important to remove yourself from the situation and go for a 10 or 15 minute walk, breath in the fresh air and leave the situation before it gets worse.

“Or into a room and do step exercises and breath in and out and in and out,” said Hatcher.

She says this allows the brain to disengage from our anger and gives the mind a chance to process what is actually happening.
Moving from anger…to frustration…to realization.

“We try to teach couples to use code words in the house that means stop…like ‘red Light,’” said Hatcher.

Use sticky notes or write signs around the house with words like, ‘stop.’

Stress balls are also proven to relieve stress and anger. Hatcher also notes mirrors as a key tool. She says it’s not silly to talk to yourself and talk yourself out of anger.

“Look in the mirror and say things like, “I’m mad, I am sad and I am angry and I must deal with this situation’ and it helps,” said Hatcher.

Source: First Coast News

Police handling of child abuse intelligence to be investigated

| November 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

Three police forces face an inquiry over alleged failures to act on tip offs about potential paedophiles.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will examine how Essex, North Wales and North Yorkshire handled information from Canadian police passed to the UK in 2012.

Around 2,000 names were sent by Toronto Police to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The three forces referred themselves to the IPCC for investigation.

The IPCC said it would now look at how that the intelligence – uncovered by officers from the international Operation Spade – was handled once it was received by the forces.

Photos of pupils

Essex Police faces questions over how it dealt with information relating to Martin Goldberg, a teacher who took indecent photos of his pupils.

Goldberg was found dead a day after being interviewed by the force. Police found hundreds of images of children getting changed on his computer.

CEOP had been told about the deputy head in July 2012 but he was not interviewed by Essex Police until September this year.

The IPCC wrote to all chief constables in England and Wales last month, asking them to review how they dealt with any information they had received relating to Operation Spade.

North Yorkshire and North Wales Police subsequently referred themselves to the body.

Cardiff paedophile Gareth Williams was among three names Canadian officers passed to North Wales Police in 2013. The force did not act on them for a year.

Williams was jailed for five years in May.

Delays apology

Deputy IPCC chairwoman Sarah Green said: “There is rightly considerable public concern about how police forces deal with sexual offences involving children.

“The IPCC takes this issue seriously and proactively contacted all forces and asked them to review their handling of intelligence to determine the scale of any issues.

“Our investigations will examine carefully how intelligence from CEOP was dealt with by these three forces.”

The head of the National Crime Agency (NCA) – which now encompasses CEOP – last month apologised for delays in acting on the information passed to it in July 2012.

How the agency handled that initial receipt of information is the subject of a separate IPCC probe.

BBC News obtained figures in October suggesting many forces had at that time only arrested around a third of the names among the Canadian intelligence.

North Wales and North Yorkshire were not among those that responded.

Source: BBC

Child Abuse Online: Sexual Exploitation Protection Requires Improved Policing

| November 10, 2014 at 01:41 pm

BT and Marie Collins Foundation urge changes needed to policing and education to protect children from abuse and grooming online

BT and the Marie Collins Foundation believe there is a substantial lack of training and understanding of the affects of online sexual abuse and grooming of children, and are now working to rectify this.

The pair have launched Click: Path to Protection, an initiative to bring major updates and improvements to how frontline services deal with cases of child exploitation online.

All police forces in England and Wales are involved, along with the Crown Prosecution Service, social services and more.

Detective Superintendent Paul Sanford said online child abuse had been “a hidden issue in society for far too long,” and although this is now changing, the police admits it knows “we are only identifying a fraction of the abuse that is taking place. We all need to work together to lift the lid and ask the relevant questions. We must put the victims first.”

Recognising that the internet has made it easier for groomers to make contact with children, Sanford said the police’s response to online abuse “needs to keep up with modern technology, and victims need a response from all agencies which recognises unique nature of online abuse.”

Online abuse to be policed the same as offline

“Policing of online communities is now as important as policing of the streets, and it is now hard to differentiate between them…abuse on the web is as great an evil as abuse which occurs anywhere,” the Superintendent added.

Research conducted for BT and the Marie Collins Foundation found that 95% of frontline workers want training to support victims and families in online abuse cases. Click: Path to Protection will begin as a pilot scheme initially, comprising a set of nationally agreed policies, procedures and guidelines on how to deal with victims and their families. Although costs and investment figures have not been disclosed, the initiative will be funded entirely by BT.

The message from this week’s launch is that children need to be educated about the dangers ofonline communication from the age of nine, so that as socially active 12 to 14-year olds they cancommunicate online safely.

Preventing long-term psychology damage

Marie Collins, herself a victim of sexual abuse as a child 30 years ago, spoke at the launch to address the long-term psychological damage inflicted on the victims of child abuse; she said a major concern shared by victims is where images taken of them are, and who has seen them. Tackling the anxiety and depression this fear creates in victims is a central goal of the initiative.

Collins said: “I looked at myself as a bad person [for allowing explicit photos to be taken] and I didn’t want people to know what I’d done. That awful feeling affects the whole way you interact with others – your family and members of the opposite sex…it becomes so hard to form normal relationships and it causes anxiety and, in many cases, depression where people turn to drugs or alcohol to help deal with those feelings.”

Abysmally slow

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, the family of a victim of online sexual abuse and groomingblamed the police, courts and social services for treating their son “like a naughty child” and slammed the response from frontline services as “abysmally slow.”

The family said the way cases like theirs are treated has now improved, but the message shared by everyone involved with the initiative is that frontline services have been slow to react and were heavy-handed in the recent past.

Although the initiative is about how to deal with victim’s in a sensitive manner, Tink Palmer, CEO of the Marie Collins Foundation, told IBTimes UK that education must also play a fundamental part in helping children stay safe online. Palmer believes that educating children about the dangers of the internet should begin as soon as possible, and that online communications should be viewed no differently to those the child engages with offline.

Source: International Business Times

Child abuse: Strangers don’t pose biggest danger

| November 7, 2014 at 07:56 am

We set out to uncover the dangers of having your child in day care, but upon investigating that story, we stumbled upon a whole other set of circumstances posing a risk to your kids. We found that registered sex offender lists aren’t the problem.

It’s not a subject most people want to talk about, or even hear about, but parole officers, medical directors and child abuse prevention experts tell us it’s not the known sex offenders we should watch out for.

“It would be very naive to think the only people who are a danger to your children are already on sex offender lists,” says Dr. Deanna St. Germain.

St. Germain, the medical director at the KIDS Center in Bend, tells us children usually know their sexual abusers — and they’re not strangers, and they aren’t people that jump out of the bushes.

KIDS Center officials say 82 percent of kids know their offenders, and most of them are in their families.

We’re told these predators are usually hiding behind familial names.

“The majority of what we see are family members — uncles, grandfathers, fathers,  stepfathers, moms and significant others,” St. Germain says.

We’re told they’re often opportunistic, and they’re capable of having normal relationships with adults — but they have access to your kids. And they have a need, and they want to fill that need.

Experts say the perpetrator will groom the family as much as they will groom the child, often presenting themselves as a resource. Those who abuse can be helpful by volunteering their time, and they can be ingratiating and personable and often charismatic.

The physical grooming starts early, and it starts slowly.

And experts also warn  that abuse doesn’t always feel bad to the child.

“An unwanted or scary or out-of-the-blue place — the body still responds with pleasure,” St. Germain said. “That can be very confusing for kids, and make it very difficult for them to talk about it, because, ‘It felt good, but I don’t really think he is supposed to be doing that.’”

Abusers often will exploit a child’s curiosity. They might show them a photograph of someone with their clothes off. They might let them watch an R-rated movie that has a scene that’s not appropriate for that aged child, but the child then has a curiosity about it and they engage them that way.

Some of the signs of abuse include: nervousness around adults or one in particular, aggression, passivity or over-compliance, sudden changes in personality, inability to stay awake or concentrate, not wanting to go home or to a particular place, low self-esteem, unexplained bruises or injuries, or poor hygiene.

The KIDS Center says parents don’t realize how common child sex abuse is. According to data from the national nonprofit Darkness to Light, one in 10 children is sexually abused — and 90 percent know their abuser.

The KIDS Center says parents should minimize the opportunity by eliminating or reducing one-on-one situations, talk about boundaries with your children, know the signs of abuse, plus react responsibly to suspicions or reports of abuse, and keep in mind that predators exist in families, not just on sex offender lists.

If you’d like to join the fight against child sex abuse, the KIDS Center offers a program called Darkness to Light, which empowers adults to help prevent child sex abuse.

Source: KTVZ

Bond hearing delayed for ex-Md. school principal accused of punching student

| November 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

The ex-middle school principal is behind bars and is expected to be in court on Thursday

The ex-middle school principal is behind bars and is expected to be in court on Thursday.

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WUSA9) — Parents and staff are in disbelief that a former principal at a Prince George’s County middle school is accused of punching a student multiple times.

Dwight Jefferson, then-principal of Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, was indicted last week for striking a child multiple times on September 23, according to State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.

Jefferson allegedly tried to stop the boy on the way to class. The student tried to run, and he called him over a second time.

In a press release, Alsobrooks says, “After telling the student to go to a conference room in the office for suspension, the victim alleges he was asked to a back room where Jefferson punched him twice in the stomach. The victim then alleges he put up his guard and prepared to strike Jefferson back, but was subsequently punched in the face.

The victim later returned to class where a teacher and others noticed the victim’s eye was swollen and the teacher subsequently notified school administrators.”

Jefferson is charged with one count of child abuse and three counts of second-degree assault. He turned himself in after being indicted on Wednesday. He is being held in jail on $75,000 bond, according to Alsobrooks. A bond hearing has been delayed because Jefferson’s attorney did not file the proper paperwork, according to WUSA9′s Delia Goncalves.

Prince George’s County Public Schools says Jefferson, who was brought on as a principal in training last year and became acting principal in July, has been permanently removed as acting principal. He was placed on leave as soon as allegations surfaced in September, school officials said. Jefferson has been with the school system since 2002.

“The type of behavior that led to the allegations are not accepted or tolerated in our school district,” PGCPS said in a statement.

John Brooks, who stepped in to serve in September, is the interim principal. He will serve until a replacement is found.

Source: WUSA9

Couple charged with severe child abuse

| November 5, 2014 at 09:44 am

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  A Memphis mother and her boyfriend are facing allegations of child abuse.

Scquita Zinn, 21, and 27-year-old Anthony Williams are in jail and facing aggravated child abuse charges.

Police say the 2-year-old child in the case has a long list of injuries including broken ribs, damaged internal organs and internal bleeding.

In a police report, the mother told officers Williams beat her child with an athletic weight and pushed the boy’s head into a glass table.

Williams however told police Zinn is responsible for the injuries.

Williams is being held in jail without bond while Zinn is being held on a $100, 000 bond.

Source: WREG

The child abuse inquiry needs to start again with transparency and trust

| November 4, 2014 at 01:09 pm

Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons

After the Butler-Sloss and Woolf fiascos, only a statutory, judge-led inquiry can satisfy abuse survivors

‘It’s clear from Theresa May’s statement in parliament that she isn’t close to understanding how much transparency is really needed.’ Photograph: PA

Trust. That’s the issue. Child abuse survivors, particularly those abused in institutional settings, are often highly mistrustful and obsessively motivated. It’s hard for those not abused in childhood to understand how devastating it is to be so thoroughly betrayed by the very adults and authorities on whom you depend for your care, and how profoundly that affects your ability to trust anybody in later life.

The home secretary Theresa May’s conduct in setting up the inquiry falls far short of building the trust necessary to gain the confidence of these extremely and justifiably mistrustful people. It is clear from her statement in parliament on Monday that she isn’t close to understanding how much transparency is really needed.

Let’s start with the powers of the inquiry. May insists that the right course is a panel inquiry, which “if the chair requests” can later be converted into a statutory inquiry. And yet she claims to be absolutely determined to get to the truth on this issue. The two statements don’t go together.

Her “intention and expectation” that all government bodies will voluntarily cooperate with a panel inquiry will be met with a hollow laugh by the many people who were abused or otherwise failed by those same government bodies. Think of the trouble Alexis Jay had getting documents out of Rotherham council.

As for non-state institutions, they have no obligation to do anything at all. The Salesian order (which ran the school at which the panel member Graham Wilmer was abused) last month issued a statement. “The Salesians will of course cooperate fully with the forthcoming government inquiry if they are required to do so” (my emphasis). The clear implication is that if they aren’t required to, they won’t. Religious organisations, independent schools and a whole plethora of non-state organisations have been involved in abuse or cover-up. They aren’t voluntarily going to cooperate with the inquiry, just as they didn’t voluntarily disclose the abuse to the authorities at the time. Their insurers won’t want anything disclosed that increases their liability to claims. We know this already; we don’t need to waste several months while the chair learns this lesson anew.

An inquiry that is judge-led and statutory from the start, with powers to compel the production of documents, to require the attendance of witnesses and to take testimony under oath, is an absolute minimum if it is to gain the confidence of survivors. This was forcefully and unanimously expressed by survivors’ organisations at last Friday’s meeting with members of the inquiry panel. Without it, almost nothing else matters. Many survivors just won’t testify to a body they will perceive as being engaged in a whitewash.

Let’s go on to some other shortcomings. May has offered more transparency in the appointment of the new chair, but has expressed confidence in the other panel members. However, they were all appointed under the same flawed, non-transparent process that led to the Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf fiascos. This is made worse by the fact that she regards the chair as first among equals within a team effort. If the inquiry is a team effort, then the whole team must be selected by the same transparent process. It won’t be trusted by the victims otherwise.

May claimed that the redrafting of Woolf’s disclosure letter was done with the aim of improving transparency. That won’t wash even among ordinary members of the public when the effect of the redrafts was so obviously the opposite. Among abuse victims it reeks of a conspiracy to impose a pliant chair on the inquiry to prevent the truth being uncovered.

Butler-Sloss had to go when it was discovered that she had suppressed the name of an abusive bishop from an inquiry report. Quite apart from her family connections, this made her unsuitable.

Woolf was unsuitable on three grounds. First, she knew nothing of the subject. Second, for a statutory inquiry (even a converted one) you really need a judge to wield its powers, for instance to hold uncooperative witnesses in contempt of court. Finally, she had had dinner too many times with the Brittans. Even on the basis of her final letter, had Woolf been a potential juror for a trial in which Brittan was a witness, that connection would have seen her instantly excused. The inquiry should be no less impartial. For May to appoint Woolf in the first place and then to persist with her once the connection was known was a huge error of judgment.

The overwhelming impression is of the minimum possible degree of transparency being grudgingly conceded. Every time abuse survivors have to scream and shout for an acceptable degree of transparency, the credibility of the whole process is lessened.

What would happen if they held an inquiry and no one came? We’re dangerously close to finding out.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/child-abuse-inquiry-transparency-trust

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