New Colorado Law Designed to Prevent Sex Trafficking of Children in the Child Welfare System

One of three laws that goes into effect in Colorado on January 1, 2016, will require the state to immediately report when children in state custody go missing.

Statistics from 2013 indicated that 60 percent of the victims rescued from sex trafficking operations were from the child welfare system.

The new law requires that those in custody of children that go missing to immediately notify local law enforcement through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Before the new law, the policy with Colorado’s Division of Human Services was to notify law enforcement within 12 to 24 hours of a child going missing.

 

 

How Childhood Domestic Violence Impacts Us

By Brian F. Martin and Ruth M. Glenn, MPA, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

We recently conducted focus groups with women who were residing in domestic violence shelters. There were many insights, but one new conclusion was drawn. If we want to end domestic violence, we must focus on Childhood Domestic Violence, or CDV.

“This is an epiphany for me”

A woman who joined one of our focus groups said, “This is an epiphany for me.” She was living in a domestic violence shelter along with her two children. She was concerned for them, as they grew up living with domestic violence.

She didn’t know how to talk to them about it. She didn’t know what to call it. Further, she didn’t until that moment connect the fact that she, too, grew up living with domestic violence. She experienced Childhood Domestic Violence.

“They don’t often connect the dots…”

This young woman is not alone. Dr. Renee McDonald, a leading researcher at Southern Methodist University said, “They often cannot connect the dots between what they experienced in their childhood homes and the challenges they face today.” Dr. McDonald was specifically talking about Childhood Domestic Violence.

What is Childhood Domestic Violence?

Most people have heard of physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect; these are all adversities that a person might face in their childhood home. However, there is one adversity that most people probably haven’t heard of, as it has very limited awareness… that adversity is Childhood Domestic Violence, or CDV.

CDV occurs when a person grows up living in a home with domestic violence. From the standpoint of a person in childhood, domestic violence is violence between their parents or violence towards a parent, from a significant other or stepparent.

It impacts the developing brain and physiology of the body

CDV impacts a person in a number of ways. One in particular is that it encodes a series of negative beliefs, or LIES, in the developing brain. And since one of the brain’s primary jobs is to find evidence of what it believes is true, more often than not, the negative beliefs formed for a person who experiences CDV become the foundation of that person’s self-concept throughout life.

As an example, if a person who grew up with CDV early in life believed that they were guilty, ashamed, that there was something wrong with them, or if they thought they were inherently worthless or fearful, then their brain finds evidence as to why this is true throughout life. This simply becomes who they are. These beliefs then impact their behaviors, health, emotions, and relationships.

The impact stays with them unless…

So how does the self-concept of a person who experiences CDV change for the better? The impact will often stay with the person unless someone steps in to help them unlearn what was learned. In the life of a child, a caring adult must step in to help the child become aware, understand, and share. The same holds true for an adult. But how can this happen when there is no awareness?

The single best predictor as to whether or not a person will be involved in domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grew up living with it in their childhood home. So, if we don’t address Childhood Domestic Violence, how can we solve the problem of domestic violence? It’s like trying to solve lung cancer without addressing the problem of smoking.

The adults who experienced Childhood Domestic Violence are key

We must provide the adults who experienced Childhood Domestic Violence — all 40 million of them in the U.S. alone — with the information they need, so they can begin to connect the dots and take the first steps towards becoming aware, understanding and sharing. Only then can they share these messages with their own children and other loved ones.

We must provide the young people with the words they need

In the same way that we’ve educated children about bullying in school, we must also educate them about the adversities they are facing in their childhood home.

We must educate them about the bullying they face when they get home from school. We must help them unlearn the lies they have learned. We must educate them about Childhood Domestic Violence.

A more holistic approach to the issue of domestic violence is needed

A more holistic approach to the issue of domestic violence is needed to help the millions of children and adults that are impacted. We need to bring the tools and information to those who need them. Most critically, we need to address the single best predictor of it — Childhood Domestic Violence.

Do you want to learn more about CDV, domestic violence, and the tools and resources available? Visit the Childhood Domestic Violence Association at www.cdv.org and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual assault is a serious public health issue that affects all communities.The impact of sexual assault can be wide-ranging and can have long-term impacts.

One in five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Sexual Assault Awareness Month calls attention to the fact that not only is it widespread, but sexual assault impacts many segments of the population. It calls all of us to work together to increase awareness, provide services for victims, support survivors, educate our communities, and speak out against harmful attitudes and actions that allow sexual assault to continue.

Some types of sexual assault include:

Child sexual abuse. One in four girls and one in six boys will experience a sexual assault before the age 18. Young people experience heightened rates of sexual violence, and youth ages 12-17 were 2.5 times as likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault.

Sexual abuse and teen dating violence.  Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Nearly one-half of adult sex offenders report committing their first sexual offenses prior to the age of 18.

Sexual assault on campus. As many as one in five women have been sexually assaulted in college, and one in 16 men in college have been victims of an attempted or completed assault.Creating a comprehensive approach to ending sexual violence on campus involves awareness, risk reduction, response, and prevention.

Intimate partner violence and sexual assault.  Intimate Partner Rape, also called Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV) or Marital Rape, is a rape or sexual assault that occurs between two people who currently have, or have had, a consensual sexual relationship. Intimate Partner Rape may occur in relationships that have an existing pattern of domestic violence. Most states now recognize that rape within a marriage or long-term intimate relationship is illegal and can be prosecuted.

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Domestic violence death should have been prevented

Amid an uproar over the death of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, whose father is accused of dropping her from a bridge into Tampa Bay last month, questions are being raised about whether domestic-violence allegations should have alerted authorities to concerns about the girl’s safety.

Experts say a history of stalking, battery and domestic-violence arrests involving John Jonchuck should have disqualified him as Phoebe’s custodial parent.

“They never should have given the dad custody of this child,” said Linda Osmundson, executive director of Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA), a battered-women’s shelter in St. Petersburg. “It was a preventable death.”

“There is a very large correlation, an overlap, between woman abuse and child abuse,” said Robin Hassler Thompson, who served as director of former Gov. Lawton Chiles’ Domestic Violence Task Force. “The range in terms of the research is that between 30 and 70 percent of the cases where you have domestic violence, you have child abuse. And that is a huge red flag.”

A report released Monday on Phoebe’s death showed that John Jonchuck’s background includes a number of arrests for domestic violence, battery and stalking — in incidents involving Phoebe’s mother, his own mother and two other women. The report also pointed to allegations against Phoebe’s mother, Michelle Kerr.

“Viewing the combined collection of law enforcement, legal and child welfare-related events connected to this family reveals an established pattern of domestic violence,” the report said.

Rita Smith, former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who now works with the National Football League on spouse-abuse issues, said simply witnessing family violence can damage children’s health, social skills and academic performance.

“Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to repeat that pattern and become either an abuser or a victim,” Smith said. “There’s just too much history in this one case.”

The report also coupled Jonchuck’s alleged history of violence with “concerns regarding substance abuse and mental health issues that should have been viewed as indicators of maladaptive family functioning.”

In other words, the three biggest risk factors for child fatalities — domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse — were all part of Phoebe’s story.

A fourth risk factor, the age of the child, applies to her as well. The youngest children are the most at risk, and Jonchuck was arrested for domestic violence the year Phoebe was born and four times more during her life.

The report was the work of the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team, which was created last year as part of a child-welfare reform bill and included an expert on the dynamics of domestic violence.

The pattern of arrests in the family shifted in June 2013, after Jonchuck was arrested for an altercation with Kerr, whereupon he and Phoebe moved out. About two weeks later, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office conducted a child-protective investigation, but did not refer either Jonchuck or Phoebe for services. According to the report, this was because Jonchuck and Kerr were no longer living together.

“This contributed to the situation being primarily viewed as rooted in the problematic relationship between the two adults, with the majority of safety concerns arising out of their altercations,” found the report. “There is also no documentation of (Jonchuck) being offered any kind of services despite the fact that the investigation was closed with a verified finding and he had become the sole primary caretaker since the event that primarily led to the finding.”

At that point, after repeated arrests for alleged battery and domestic violence, Jonchuck began trying to establish legal custody of Phoebe. In June 2013, he was granted a domestic-violence injunction against Kerr, prohibiting her from contacting him. In 2014, he filed for three more injunctions, two against Kerr and one against another woman. All three were denied.

“The appearance that subsequent reports were related as much to custody struggles as child welfare concerns contributed to future decision-making throughout the remainder of the case,” noted the report.

Hassler Thompson observed that women as well as men abuse their partners. But she also said that experts in the dynamics of domestic violence are familiar with the use of the courts to commit what some call “abuse by litigation.”

“We see quite often that abusers will use the system against the victim,” she said. “They flip it on its head. What you really need to do as a judge, as an advocate, is to look at these cases and make sure that the person who’s coming forward is the true victim — and that you have a complete list of all the incidences of domestic violence that have come to the attention of the system.”

Additionally, said Leisa Wiseman of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, having an expert on spouse abuse at the table is crucial to accurately assessing the threat to a child’s safety.

Wiseman pointed to her group’s collaboration with the Department of Children and Families, which pairs experts in child abuse with experts in spouse abuse.

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U.S. Fails to Adequately Comply with Domestic Violence Recommendations Issued by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union and several other human rights groups appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today and presented testimony that detailed the United States’ failure to adequately implement changes to its laws and policies on domestic violence that the Commission recommended in 2011.

The IACHR directed the United States to make the changes after deciding Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States, the first case brought before the Commission against the U.S. government by a domestic violence survivor. The case was previously heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Town of Castle Rock v. Jessica Gonzales.

In 1999, Lenahan repeatedly called the police after her estranged husband, who was subject to a domestic violence restraining order, kidnapped their three daughters. Police in Castle Rock, Colorado, failed to respond to her calls and 10 hours later, he drove his pick-up truck to the local police station and opened fire. The police returned fire, killing him. The bodies of Lenahan’s daughters were found dead in the back of the truck. To this day, it is unknown who killed the children.

In its 2011 decision, the Commission recommended that the government conduct an investigation into the cause, time and place of the girls’ deaths and the systemic failures of the Castle Rock police department to enforce the domestic violence restraining order. It also recommended that the government provide compensation to Lenahan and her family and adopt reforms at the federal and state levels to ensure protection from domestic violence.

Human rights groups praised the IACHR’s landmark decision but the United States has made almost no progress in implementing the reforms since the decision was made.

“The time has come for the government to take concrete steps to prevent domestic violence, investigate incidences that occur and hold police accountable when they fail to respond adequately,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “We hope the hearing today will push the government to take meaningful action in this regard.”

As a first step toward compliance, human rights groups worked with the State Department and the Department of Justice to organize a Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Non-Discrimination and Human Rights Roundtable in April 2014 to educate federal staff about how human rights standards reinforce and supplement existing U.S. laws and policies. However, the roundtable has not yet yielded concrete results.

“While landmark U.S. legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act exists to address the high incidence of violence against women, there is little in terms of legally binding federal provisions which provide substantive protection or prevention for acts of domestic violence,” said Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, who investigated the U.S. government’s responses to domestic violence during a country visit in 2011.

Last month, on the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation affirming, “the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.” The important language of this proclamation must be translated into effective responses to and prevention of domestic violence.

“For 15 years, I have asked my government to investigate who killed my daughters, and when and where they died,” said Jessica Lenahan. “I will not stop seeking answers until I see my government take concrete steps toward conducting this investigation and repairing the human rights violations that I have suffered.”

The ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, Human Rights Clinics at the University of Miami Law School and University of Chicago Law School, and Columbia Law School represent Lenahan and will continue to work with the government until actionable steps toward reform in domestic violence protection and prevention are taken.

 

 

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Battered mothers take their case to Washington

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Figures released by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence (a nonprofit independent scientific organization composed of scientists, clinicians, educators, legal scholars, and public policy analysts), show as many as 58,000 U.S. children a year are being taken from their protective parent and placed into custody or unsupervised visitation with molesters and batterers.

The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC) has appealed to the Surgeon General to have child sexual abuse declared an epidemic, and are in communications with the Victims’ Rights Caucus to raise concern about Human Rights violations of child victims.

Ariel Castro Pleads Not Guilty

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Facing 329 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder, 139 counts of rape and 177 counts of kidnapping, Ariel Castro entered a not-guilty plea July 12 in a Cleveland courthouse.

Castro is suspected of having kidnapped three young women and keeping them in his home for about a decade. According to court records, the 52-year-old suspect chained, tortured and sexually assaulted Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight during that time.

The three young women who were missing for about a decade before being rescued from a home in Cleveland where they say they were chained, tortured and sexually assaulted, have given police similar accounts about how their long nightmares began.

In a police report that NPR has been shown, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are quoted as saying that suspect Ariel Castro’s approach was simple. On Morning Edition, NPR’s Cheryl Corley said it’s alleged that:

“Nearly 10 years ago, [Castro] told then 14-year-old DeJesus he’d drop her off at his house so she could meet with his daughter. … He lured Amanda Berry [in 2003] by telling her his son worked at the same restaurant she did. He offered Michelle Knight a ride home [in 2002].”

As Cheryl adds, all three — according to their accounts — “would end up chained in the basement of the house before living later on the second floor. They were allegedly forced to have sex with Castro. One victim told police she became pregnant several times but Castro punched her in the stomach so she would miscarry. Amanda Berry give birth to a daughter who is now six. Authorities will give the child a paternity test to confirm Castro is the father.”