Posts tagged with "child abuse"

Handcuff illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Facebook × Child Predators

SURVIVOR OF FACEBOOK-FACILITATED CHILD PREDATOR ABUSE TELLS SHAREHOLDERS TO “DELAY END-TO-END ENCRYPTION” UNTIL PLATFORM CAN ADEQUATELY PROTECT CHILDREN

Searing Testimony Shows Danger Facebook Poses to Young Children and How Ill-Conceived Steps Justified on Privacy Grounds Would Only Hurt More Children.

A survivor of child abuse and exploitation who was approached on a Facebook platform urged shareholders today at the company’s annual meeting to delay plans to move ahead with end-to-end encryption that would see Facebook “become one of the world’s most dangerous ’playgrounds’ for children.”

That warning was delivered today by Sarah Cooper, who was approached as a teenager through Facebook Messenger, met a predator in Boston and New York City, and was sold into sex slavery.

The following is Sarah Cooper’s full statement: 

“My name is Sarah Cooper and I am a member of the Survivor’s Council of ECPAT-USA, the leading anti-child trafficking organization in the United States.

I am here this morning to present resolution #6 asking the Board to report on the risk of increased sexual exploitation of children as the Company develops and offers additional privacy tools such as end-to-end encryption.

One year ago, I told my personal story publicly for the first time, of being groomed and trafficked by a predator that I met on Facebook. He seemed to be my age but was actually decades older. I was groomed starting when I was 15 until just after my 18th birthday. It seemed innocent enough at the beginning. I received a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t know.  

We exchanged messages back and forth and after some time I sent photos to my predator, then more images to him. He groomed me for over two years.   I thought he was a friend, someone I could trust. I didn’t really know anything was wrong until I met him in person, and saw his face, I finally realized he was closer to 40 than 18.  Once I stepped into his car it was too late… When I was trafficked, given drugs, sold into sex slavery and held against my will at gunpoint… my instinct was to survive.  I was lucky enough to have been rescued by a friend and thankfully survived my ordeal, some are not as lucky and never make it home.

For years, I was unaware of the dangers lurking on the internet, until I myself became a target.  Today, as an advocate working to prevent child sex trafficking, I’ve come to understand that law enforcement in the field relies extensively on tips from Facebook to bring predators to justice.  But what will happen when you go to end to end encryption on the Messenger app? 

Facebook admitted that in going forward with implementing end-to-end encryption it will not be able to see child sexual abuse materials online, and the number of these reports will go down.  Therefore, the number of children’s lives that could be saved or helped, will be less.

Facebook made nearly 21 million reports of child sexual materials last year, and it has been estimated that 75% of these will become invisible once it applies end-to end encryption.

Those reports are not just ‘reports’ – they are children. Children who are scared and hurt, children who need our help, children who believe Facebook would never hurt them. They are someone’s daughter, sister, grandchild and neighbor. 

Facebook needs to immediately improve age verification, increase human monitoring of content, work in tighter cooperation with law enforcement – and it should absolutely delay expanding encryption on its platforms until it can protect children.

Privacy is important, but we need a balance of privacy and protection of the most vulnerable members of society, our children.  

Facebook is a great platform, but it is not a safe platform. And with encryption it will become one of the world’s most dangerous ’playgrounds’ for children.

Thank you.”

Ms. Cooper spoke in favor of Proposal 6 at the Facebook annual meeting, which calls on Facebook to conduct a study of its central role in online child abuse and  “assessing the risk of increased sexual exploitation of children as the Company develops and offers additional privacy tools such as end-to-end encryption.”  The resolution was filed by Proxy Impact, Lisette Cooper, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ, and the Stardust Fund. In 2020, the same resolution attracted the support of 43 percent of non-management shares of the company that is tightly controlled by Mark Zuckerberg.

How bad is the child abuse and exploitation problem at Facebook? And how much worse could it get? 

Child illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Child Friendly Faith Project

Child Advocacy Group Highlights Abuse in Religious Institutions for Child Abuse Prevention Month

With National Child Abuse Prevention Month underway, the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), a national nonprofit that educates the public about religiously enabled child maltreatment, is raising awareness of crimes against children perpetrated in religious institutions.

The CFFP is also drawing attention to a dangerous court decision that could prevent abusive institutions from being held accountable and offering a valuable resource to parents and guardians to help them determine whether they should enroll or continue to enroll their children in certain religious institutions.

The little-known ecclesiastical abstention doctrine (EAD) guides courts in deciding First Amendment, religious matters. While historically the EAD has been raised in cases relating to claims of wrongful termination, in recent years religious schools facing lawsuits involving allegations of child harm have pushed courts to interpret the EAD very broadly to get cases dismissed. In one recent case, the Episcopal School of Dallas was permitted to ignore its own legal contracts with parents and the emotional harm suffered by a child never came to light.

Given this alarming legal precedent, parents and guardians of children who have been harmed by private institutions could lose their right to seek relief in court, while the institutions might never be held accountable.

Parents who have children enrolled in private, faith-based schools (or are considering enrolling them) should be aware of the potential harm posed by the EAD. With this in mind, CFFP’s campaign is offering parents valuable tips on how to determine whether they should enroll (or continue to enroll) their children in private, faith-based schools:

  • Determine whether the institution your child is enrolled in (or might be enrolled in) could claim to be faith-based. Some private schools have stretched the meaning of “faith-based” as a way to be shielded by the EAD in court. Even if an institution seems to operate in a way that appears secular, as long as a facility, school, program, or daycare operation can claim that it has some sort of faith-based or spiritual component, it could convince a court that it should be protected by the EAD and cannot be sued for child abuse or neglect.
  • Read the school’s contract carefully. Many schools specify in their contracts how legal issues must be resolved. For example, some require parents to agree to mediation. It’s important to know what legal recourses you’re agreeing to. However, be aware that if a case goes to court, the EAD does have the potential to make contracts of religious school’s moot.
  • Ask to see a school’s child-abuse prevention policies & procedures. Those that take abuse seriously and proactively develop and enforce comprehensive abuse-prevention policies are usually open to making these policies available and may even post them on their websites.
  • Research whether the school has a history of abuse allegations. Conduct an online search using the name of the institution and words such as “lawsuit,” “sued,” and “abuse” to determine if it has been accused of abuse or of covering up cases in the past. Be extremely wary if you find a pattern of abuse allegations, even if you do not find information about final court decisions.
  • Explore the educational programs of secular private or public schools. Children can receive a high-quality education and experience at many different types of schools. Consider the offerings of private secular schools or public schools, which would be unable to raise the EAD in court.

Recent abuse cases

The CFFP has previously exposed issues of religious institutional child abuse and offered support to survivors and affected families. An example is its efforts to make public the decades-long, egregious abuses perpetrated at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Recently, other cases have also made the news:

  • Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — Last February, the SBC’s executive committee voted to expel two member churches for employing pastors who were convicted sex offenders. One pastor, who had been with his church since 2014, had pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape of a minor in the 1990s. The other pastor led his church since 2018, despite having been on Florida’s sex offender registry since 1993. In 2019, the SBC published a report on preventing and responding to cases of sexual abuse and later launched its “Caring Well Challenge” that calls on all SBC churches to adopt the report’s recommendations. Unfortunately, the program is voluntary.
  • Circle of Hope Girls Ranch — The owners and operators of this faith-based boarding school in Missouri face more than 100 criminal charges of sexual, physical and mental abuse of girls in their care. Their arrests came after their estranged daughter, Amanda Householder, posted social media videos of former residents talking about the abuse they endured. In an interview with a Missouri TV station, Householder said that victims had been speaking out since 2007. “Why did it take ten years for anyone to do anything?” she asked.

A dangerous court decision

While it’s heartening that these cases are receiving public attention, it is possible that they, and many more like them, could be dismissed thanks to a legal precedent set by a Texas appellate court in 2018. The case involved the Episcopal School of Dallas which invoked a common-law doctrine known as the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine” (EAD). The EAD provides guidance to courts when weighing in on First-Amendment, religious matters. However, in the Dallas case, in which a father alleged that his son had been wrongfully expelled and in violation of school policy, it was applied very broadly and used to shield the school from being sued.

In another case involving Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas, a district court, in recognizing the EAD, threw out a lawsuit filed by a mother whose son had endured repeated racist bullying by other students. The mother wanted the school to hold the perpetrators accountable after the school had only demanded a written apology and suspended them for one day. Despite emotional trauma suffered by the victim, the judge agreed with the school’s claim that a court should not “intrude upon a religious institution’s management of its internal affairs and governance.”

“The EAD allows courts to prioritize a religious institution’s desire for secrecy and avoidance of accountability over the wellbeing of children,” said CFFP founder Janet Heimlich. “In cases in which organizations invoke the EAD, the public may never learn what abusive or neglectful actions took place, and parents may unwittingly enroll their children in those schools.”

To schedule an interview with a representative of the CFFP, an affected parent or a survivor of religious institutional child abuse, contact Jeff Salzgeber  through email or (512) 743-2659 cell.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP) is a national, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to end religious child maltreatment by raising awareness of this issue through educational programs that benefit the general public, survivors, professionals, and faith communities.

Allison Christensen, 360 Magazine, Vaughn Lowery

Impact of Racism on Families

Prevent Child Abuse America’s Dr. Melissa Merrick Issues a Statement on the Impact on Racism on Children & Families

For the last several days, emotions that have run high for generations have clearly reached a boiling point, here in Chicago and throughout the country. The understandable outrage, profound sadness, and deafening demands for change stemming from the death of George Floyd and countless others before him are feelings that we at Prevent Child Abuse America share. For those who grieve, we grieve with you.

We remain steadfast in our mission—to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation’s children—and we continue to envision a world where all children grow up happy, healthy, and prepared to succeed in supportive families and communities. To do this effectively, we focus on a comprehensive approach, proactively creating the conditions for thriving children and families. To be truly successful, we must actively dismantle the root causes of stress and anxiety that can lead to child abuse, including systemic, structural racism and discrimination. Research consistently highlights the disproportionate exposure and effects of trauma and adversity within communities of color, but too many of our policies and systems produce, rather than. eliminate, such disparities. We know that we can do better, and that most Americans want every child to grow up feeling secure.

We cannot tackle these issues single handedly—no one can—but neither can we sit idly by and allow our children, families, and communities to suffer. At moments like this, it is more important than ever for us to stand together to advocate for racial justice and equity. To do so, we rely on strong partnerships—with our nationwide network of state chapters and Healthy Families America affiliates, with external collaborators at the local, state, and federal levels, and with leaders in the business and civic communities. We all have a role to play in creating a better future for every child, regardless of the color of their skin.

We call upon everyone in our network to take action and support those affected by this time of unrest—in whatever ways you can—to continue to educate and spread awareness in your communities, and to work together to protect children from the effects of systemic racism. At Prevent Child Abuse America, we are deeply committed to reforming the systems that have jeopardized the safety of our children as a byproduct of the persistent racial inequities they produce and exacerbate.

Together, we CAN prevent child abuse, America—because childhood lasts a lifetime.

About Melissa T. Merrick, PhD
Melissa T. Merrick, PhD, is President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. She has nearly 20 years of clinical, research, and leadership experience related to the etiology, course, and prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Previously, Dr. Merrick was a senior epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, and served on a detail in the Office of the Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. In partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, she served as the lead scientist for the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study at CDC for 8 years. Dr. Merrick successfully leverages her clinical and research experiences to communicate and disseminate the critical public health importance of preventing early adversity to key stakeholders with diverse priorities, backgrounds, and knowledge, including legislators, business and civic leaders, and members of the academic and medical communities.

About Prevent Child Abuse America
Founded in 1972, Prevent Child Abuse America is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. With chapters in 48 states and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites throughout the country, it promotes services that improve child well-being and develops programs that help to prevent all types of abuse and neglect—before they begin. Prevent Child Abuse America is rated as one of the top charities for children by Consumer Reports and numerous charity oversight organizations, including Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits and GuideStar. Visit their website here to learn more.

Child Abuse × Spanking

The issue of whether spanking does or does not contribute to later aggression remains controversial despite public policy statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups opposing spanking. Studies have remained inconsistent regarding whether spanking does or does not contribute to later aggression. 

The Journal of Pediatrics published a research article by Jeff R. Temple, PhD, et al, in 2018 titled, “Childhood Corporal Punishment and Future Perpetration of Physical Dating Violence.” The results were from an adult-retrospective study and suggested that spanking and related corporal punishment could predict adult dating violence, but that actual physical child abuse exposure did not. 

New research findings published in Springer Nature’s Psychiatric Quarterly journal attempted to replicate the study by using similar methodologies.

“Child Abuse, Spanking and Adult Dating Violence: A Replication Study of Temple et al, 2018” is based on research by Chris Ferguson, PhD, professor of psychology at Stetson University.

Current results did not replicate the findings of Temple et al, 2018. Exposure to child physical abuse predicted adult dating violence, but exposure to spanking and related corporal punishment did not. These results suggest it may be premature to link spanking to aggression in adulthood.

Dr. Ferguson is an aggression, violence and violent criminal behavior expert and available to discuss his research study with the media this week. Below you will find links to Drs. Ferguson and Temple’s journal articles, discussion points and Dr. Ferguson’s faculty profile link, which includes additional information about his background, expertise and research. 

Discussion points:

  1. Whether childhood spanking does or does not contribute to later aggression in adulthood remains controversial.
  2. A prior study suggested spanking, but not actual physical abuse predicted adult dating violence.
  3. In this replication study, results did not replicate the prior study. Instead, child abuse predicted adult dating violence, but spanking did not predict adult dating violence.
  4. This replication study indicates spanking is unlikely to contribute to adult dating violence, but actual child physical abuse does.
  5. Many prior studies confuse the two and there is a need for more rigorous research in this area.

Dr. Chris Ferguson’s faculty profile:

http://www.stetson.edu/other/faculty/christopher-ferguson.php

Psychiatric Quarterly research journal article:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11126-020-09742-5

Journal of Pediatrics research article from 2018:

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/321581264_Childhood_Corporal_Punishment_and_Future_Perpetration_of_Physical_Dating_Violence

“Two Reasons Why I Won’t Report My Child Abuse”

Excerpt from The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook By Steve Simpson

“The first reason is I know that I could be better in school. I know I mess up at home. The clothes I wear. The way I have my hair. The attitude I have. The trouble that I get in. I bring it on myself. If I were a better person these things probably wouldn’t happen to me. Ever since I can remember, I have been told by my parents that all the problems at home are my fault. People have it worse than I do.” These are the thoughts of many who are being abused and the first reasons why they won’t report it.

What I discovered was that even children who do fantastic in school, never get in any trouble, and do everything “right” still get abused by their parents or abusive adults in their home. Their parents even called them the same names as me and they were model children. I’ve found it has nothing to do with the way I act at all. It has nothing to do with who I was. It has nothing to do with the children. It has to do with the adults. Child abuse and discipline have nothing to do with each other. People who abuse children do it because of their own sickness, be it alcoholism, drug abuse or other problems they have.

“I knew my father or my mother’s boyfriend had no right to abuse me but I always felt that my mother would get in trouble for it.” This is the thought of many abuse victims and the second reason why they don’t report it. Even though they are getting abused they still try to protect the non-abusing/co-dependent parent. What I offer to those children is you would not so much be getting your parent in trouble, but you would be getting them help. Most authorities get them to go to therapy, which would stop that parent from allowing abuse to themselves and others in the future, therefore making their life better. So by protecting yourself you’re actually not getting anyone in trouble but protecting them and getting them help as well. Even the abusive adult could end up getting help as a result of you reporting it. Nobody should abuse you, period!

If you are being abused in any way, sometimes the abuse looks like it’s becoming less frequent. Don’t be fooled by this. It could suddenly pick up again and get worse. It will not stop unless you do something to stop it. Speak to a teacher, guidance counselor, school social worker or psychologist. Counselors from community centers and sometimes even people from local churches will know what to do and how to get you help. You can call Child Protective Services for your local area. Nobody should be abused in any way. You are no exception. You are worth getting help.

Approximately 5 children die a day as a result of child abuse. For those who suspect child abuse whether it be a relative or neighbor, it always amazes me how people will call 911 simply because someone parked in the wrong spot or put the garbage out on the wrong night, yet they won’t get “involved” in possibly saving a child’s life or at a minimum their childhood (not to mention the problems they will have as an adult as a result of their abuse). As responsible people we are already “involved”.

If you suspect child abuse it probably does exist. Don’t make excuses or protect and enable the abuser. Protect who you are supposed to protect, the children.

 

About Steve Simpson
Steve Simpson is a child advocate, child abuse survivor and media commentator who just released The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook — a small guide that is modestly tucked inside in all four of his YA adventure novels which covers most of the topics plaguing young people today—suicide, bullying, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, self-worth, being the child of an addict, living in a dysfunctional home, surviving school and more. Simpson was even recognized by President Barack Obama, former New York governor David Paterson and the County Executive of Nassau County for his efforts on behalf of abused children.