all things social work

CSA: Not One More Child

Not 1 More Child from PROTECT on Vimeo.

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CSA: Sex Offender Arrested at Boy Scout Meeting

Similar to youth sports, there may be adults volunteering with youth in your community who have previous convictions for child sex abuse.  The sex offender registry and background checks won’t identify everyone.  Communities and individuals must be vigilant.  If you work with youth in extracurricular activities, what policies and procedures are in place to protect children?  –Joy


NAPERVILLE, IL, December 22, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ — Recently, a convicted sex offender was taken into custody and arrested as a result of an anonymous tip provided to the police. The man, identified as Brian Liska, was located at a Boy Scout’s meeting at Irving Elementary School in Bloomington, Illinois. Liska faces Class 4 felony charges of being a child sex offender in a school zone. At the time of his arrest, Liska was reportedly wearing a Cub Scout leader uniform. Procedure necessitated the uniform being taken as evidence in the ongoing investigation resulting from the felony charges. Bloomington police spokesperson Dave White stated that after the anonymous tip that prompted the authorities to confront Liska at the meeting, he was escorted away from the children at the meeting and arrested out of sight in a nearby hallway as to not alarm the children. Sex Offender Registry The police report that the Boy Scouts did the customary background check for all volunteers who work within their program, but the search did not uncover any such information about Liska’s previous conviction.

According to the Bloomington police the reason his sex offender status could not be located during the search was because the original offense had occurred more than 10 years earlier and therefore he was not listed with the state’s online sex offender registry. By law, he was not required to be listed on the state sex offender registry.

The terms of his conviction, however, mandated that he not be on any school property without first informing that school’s staff so that a school official could escort him. The conviction for aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim 13 to 16 years of age occurred in 1997, when Mr. Liska was 23. Prior to the tip, apparently neither the authorities nor the Boy Scouts knew of Liska’s previous conviction for sexual abuse of a child. Had they known the organization says it would never have permitted him to volunteer with the group. After the arrest, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement saying, “Consistent with scouting policies, upon learning of these matters, the Boy Scouts of America immediately revoked this individual’s membership and he was removed from scouting.” At this time, there is no indication of any kind of inappropriate conduct between Liska and any of the Scout members with whom he associated. After he posted a $300 bond, Liska was released from McLean County jail and he was due back in court on November 4 for arraignment. He is likely facing a Class 4 felony charge. Authority Figures and Juvenile Sex Offenses The subject of inappropriate conduct with children has become a national topic lately due the allegations revolving around a former college football coach at Penn State University, as well as an assistant coach at Syracuse. Parents and community groups are looking closely at coaches, teachers, volunteers and others who work with children. In some cases, this may mean simply checking the offender registry. Other, more intensive background checks may also become commonplace as the fear of potential sexual abuse grows. More than ever, a person convicted as a child sex offender faces a lifetime of consequences.

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CSA: Speaking out about staying silent

By Donna Jenson

December 14, 2011

When I was 8 years old, I never knew which night my father would come into my room. When he was done with me, he’d always say, “You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.” Petrified and ashamed, believing his threat, I never told anybody. This secret stayed buried in a dirt pile at the back of my brain. For 40 years. But now I tell. I started telling a few years before each of my parents died.

My silence had layers. The first layer was fear. The second got formed from believing it was somehow my fault; this wouldn’t happen to a “good” child. Another was shame for having come from a family that would abuse and not protect its children.

In sexual assaults, there are victims, offenders and bystanders. Bystanders are those who know or suspect something is wrong. Today Coach Joe Paterno is our nation’s most famous bystander. If I could speak directly to him, I would say, “Carpe diem, Coach Paterno! Seize the day. One hell of an opportunity lies before you. Step up to the microphones and cameras; face those thousands of adoring Penn State students who are outraged at your being fired and say, ‘Stop worrying about me. I got fired because I didn’t do everything I could have to protect those boys. Because I didn’t do everything I should have to stop a man from harming them. Take this energy you’re spending on me and use it to change the world so this doesn’t happen to your children.'”

Everyone who has heard about this tragedy is now a bystander.

In the aftermath of the Penn State earthquake I’m thinking about the 39 million people in our country who’ve been sexually assaulted (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And thinking about the kids who are going to be abused today and tomorrow makes my pen stop and my brain freeze. Someone’s going to be sexually abused for the very first time today and we’re living in a world that can’t keep it from happening.

There are bystanders who don’t want survivors to tell, who can’t endure the awful exposure of people they love, trust or know — present or past. My family has responded in all the ways one can imagine — some believe and support me — some are angry I told and shun me — the rest are stunned to silence.

Telling brings a freedom that’s palpable. For me it’s been a release from a coat of armor glued to my skin and a rusty chain wrapped around my heart. All keeping the very best of me locked away.

The majority of survivors haven’t told yet, haven’t felt safe enough, supported enough or connected enough to tell just one person how they were harmed. The culture’s got a lock on keeping these secrets. Nothing will change as long as the truth is locked away.

Why has this Penn State fiasco stirred up such a maelstrom of attention and outrage in our culture? It appears much larger than the public reaction to the very same thing that’s been happening in the Catholic Church. Could sports be a higher religion in our country?

Whatever the reason, I am sorrowfully glad it is so. A window of opportunity has opened in our airwaves and around our kitchen tables.

I’m calling out to everyone who’s disturbed, enraged and confused by all the stories coming out of Penn State, wondering what you could possibly do to help. You can help. You can make a difference. Unlock the secrets with your listening. There is power in the simple act of listening. Silence gets broken when two things happen: Survivors tell and the people they tell listen.

The Penn State aftershocks are bringing painful reminders to countless survivors. Some will be moved to speak, some for the first time. Get ready to listen. It’s the first step. Thirty-nine million of us are sitting on a vast morass of truth. Believe it. The sooner our country gets to that truth to see how wide and deep it is — the sooner we can start figuring out together how to prevent it from happening over and over, again and again.

Donna Jenson, the founder of Time to Tell, is the author and performer of “What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest.”


The Perfect Marriage: Science Begins To Explain Why Antidepressants and Talk Therapy Go Hand in Hand


By Alice G. Walton

12/26/2011 @ 11:13AM

Antidepressants have been used for a number of years to treat mood disorders like depression and anxiety, and we’re relying on them more and more as the go-to treatment. This being the case, researchers know oddly little about how they work – or, more specifically, why they work. Another mystery is why when paired together, antidepressants and talk therapy are so much more effective than either method alone. Now, a new study may explain why the marriage is so successful.

What we do know about how antidepressants function is that they help increase the amount of neurotransmitter between nerve cells. The problem is it that this doesn’t necessarily translate into the behavioral changes that can follow. Some newer evidence has suggested that depression is linked to brain inflammation and/or the destruction of neurons, and that the reason that antidepressants (and exercise, for that matter) work is that they foster the growth of new nerve cells.

According to a new study, antidepressants may indeed set the brain back to a more “plastic” or youthful state, so that the stage is set for talk therapy to work its magic.

The researchers looked at how the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (Prozac®) affected the stress responses of mice. It’s been known for some time that fluoxetine may make certain parts of the brain more plastic, so the researchers wagered that the drug may also affect areas of the brain important in learning about stressful and non-stressful situations.

To test this idea in mice, first the researchers paired a tone with a painful shock to the feet (a la Pavlov). It doesn’t take many trials for mice to freeze whenever they hear the tone alone, in expectation of a shock; and these mice did just that.

But after this pairing, the researchers set out to “extinguish” the link by playing the tone without the shock. Adult mice are notoriously poor at unlearning the connection once it’s formed: even if they stop reacting to it somewhat, just one more pairing can send them right back into freeze mode. Young mice, on the other hand, are much more adaptable to this extinction training, and have almost no trouble unlearning the association.

As the researchers suspected, mice who were given fluoxetine during extinction behaved much more like young mice, in the ease with which they stopped reacting to the tone. And when they were reintroduced to the shock later on, they weren’t so quick to fall back on their previously stressed behavior. On the other hand, mice who were not given fluoxetine “renewed” their fear response much more quickly upon getting shocked again.

So, if adult mice given fluoxetine behave more like young mice in how quickly they can learn and unlearn new relationships in their environment, what’s going on the brain to explain these behavioral changes?

The brains of the mice who were treated with fluoxetine also looked “younger,” particularly in the cells in their amygdalas, the area of the brain that governs the fear response. One type of cell-adhesion molecule, normally expressed in younger cortical neurons, was more abundant in the mice who had been given fluoxetine. And a protein that normally increases as an animal ages existed in lower levels in the fluoxetine-treated mice. Other changes also indicated that the fluoxetine-treated brain had taken on a “development-like plasticity.”

If the mouse brain is acting like it’s younger, more plastic, more open to new experiences when it’s bathed in antidepressants, what does this mean for human beings battling depression? It could mean that antidepressants help set up the brain to be more receptive to the changes that psychotherapy can bring about. A more youthful-acting brain could be more sensitive to the methods used in therapy: learning new ways to cope, dealing with stressors, and instituting new thought patterns could take root more easily in a more plastic brain.

This study is important since it’s really the first to take a stab at an explanation for the why drug-psychotherapy combo is more effective than either method alone. Theoretically, the explanation makes a lot of sense, but more research will need to be done to explore the mechanism more fully – especially in humans.

Concerns have long been raised about why antidepressants don’t work in some people or actually have a negative effect, as well their efficacy compared to placebo and the higher likelihood of relapse that is associated with them. Understanding more about how antidepressants work in the brain is critical, given the number of people on them, and the fact that there are so many unanswered questions about them.

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CSA: New law allows child sex victims to use a one-way screen when testifying in court


by NBC25 Newsroom

Posted: 12.13.2011 at 1:00 PM

LANSING — A new screen will shield children of sex crimes from testimony trauma.

Attorney General Bill Schuette reports the Michigan Supreme Court will now allow children to sue a one-way screen that shields children from “re-victimization caused by the trauma of witnessing an accused rapist in court.”

“There is no constitutional right to stare down a child victim,” said Schuette in a written release.  “This is a commonsense step that protects the well-being of child victims while preserving the integrity of the criminal justice process.”

Lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to implement this legislation after an 8-year-old Michigan boy used it in a courtroom when taking the stand against 27-year-old Ronald Carl Rose the man who allegedly molested him.

However, the use of the screen was later challenged by Rose who claimed the screen violated his right to confront the victim and the presumption of innocence.  Despite those challenges, Rose was convicted on four counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct.

Schuette says the screen is just one step he is taking to protect abuse victims.


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CSA: Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse

The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence


Few people are aware of the true state of the science on child abuse. Instead, most people’s beliefs have been shaped by common misconceptions and popular myths about this hidden crime. Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children. The Leadership Council prepared this analysis because we believe that society as a whole benefits when the public has access to accurate information regarding child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Myth 1:  Normal-appearing, well educated, middle-class people don’t molest children.

One of the public’s most dangerous assumptions is the belief that a person who both appears and acts normal could not be a child molester. Sex offenders are well aware of our propensity for making assumptions about private behavior from one’s public presentation. In fact, as recent reports of abuse by priests have shown, child molesters rely on our misassumptions to deliberately and carefully set and gain access to child victims.

According to Dr. Anna Salter, Ph.D., a foremost expert in sex offenders, “a double life is prevalent among all types of sex offenders . . . . The front that offenders typically offer to the outside world is usually a ‘good person,’ someone who the community believes has a good character and would never do such a thing” (Salter, 2003, p. 34).

In her years of work with sex offenders, Dr. Salter has found they commonly employ a variety of tactics which allow them to gain access to children while concealing their activities. For instance, many seek responsible positions that place them in close proximity with children. They also tend to adopt a pattern of socially responsible and caring behavior in public. Many have practiced and perfected their ability to charm, to be likeable and to radiate a facade of sincerity and truthfulness. This causes parents and others to drop their guard, allowing the sex offender easy and recurring access to children.

In fact, Dr. Salter has found that the life a child molester leads in public may be exemplary, almost surreal in its righteousness. In her book, Dr. Salter presents the following description written by a child molester who had used his position as a church choir director to gain access to boys.

I want to describe a child molester I know very well.  This man was raised by devout Christian parents.  As a child he rarely missed church.   Even after he became an adult he was faithful as a church member.  He was a straight A student in high school and college.  He has been married and has a child of his own.  He coached Little League baseball.  He was a Choir Director at his church.   He never used any illegal drugs.  He never had a drink of alcohol.   He was considered a clean-cut, All-American boy.  Everyone seemed to like him.  He was a volunteer in numerous civic community functions.  He had a well-paying career job.  He was considered “well-to-do” in society.   But from the age of 13-years-old he sexually molested little boys.   He never victimized a stranger.  All of his victims were friends.  . . I know this child molester very well because he is me!!!!

Soon after writing this, the author of this confession was released on parole.  Upon release, he quickly infiltrated a church where he molested children until he was again caught and returned to prison” (Salter, 2003, pp. 36-37).

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children . New York: Basic Books.

Myth 2:  People are too quick to believe an abuser is guilty, even if there is no supporting evidence.

In truth, people are too quick to believe that the accused is innocent, even if there is plenty of supporting evidence. According to Dr. Salter, ” Normal , healthy people distort reality to create a kinder, gentler world than actually exists” (p. 177). She notes that in order to find meaning and justice in everyday life, most people assign victims too much blame for their assaults and offenders too little. In truth, it is hard for most people to imagine how any person could sexually abuse a child. Because they can’t imagine a “normal” person doing such a heinous act, they assume that child molesters must be monsters.  If the accused does not fit this stereotype (in other words if he appears to be a normal person), then many people will disbelieve the allegation, believing the accused to be incapable of such act.

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children. New York : Basic Books.

Myth 3:  Child molesters molest indiscriminately. 

Not everyone who comes in contact with a child molester will be abused. Although this finding may seem obvious, some interpret the fact that an abuser didn’t molest a particular child in their care to mean that those children who do allege abuse must be lying. In truth, sex offenders tend to carefully pick and set up their victims Thus while sex offenders may feel driven to molest children, they rarely do so indiscriminately or a plan.

Research with sex offenders confirms that they tend to carefully select and “groom” their victims (Conte, Wolf, & Smith, 1989). For instance, Elliott, Browne and Kilcoyne (1995) interviewed with 91 child molesters, the all-male sample reported that they most often chose children who had family problems, were alone, lacked confidence, and were indiscriminate in their trust of others — especially when the child was also perceived to be pretty, “provocatively” dressed, young, or small.

Rather than being a sudden, initially traumatic occurrence, most sex abuse involves a gradual “grooming” process in which the perpetrator skillfully manipulates the child into participating (Berliner & Conte, 1995). To ensure the child’s continuing compliance, sex offenders report using bribes, threats and force (Elliott et al.,1995).

Below, a young pedophile describes the careful planning that went into finding his next victim.

When a person like myself wants to obtain access to a child, you don’t just go up and get the child and sexually molest the child. There’s a process of obtaining the child’s friendship and, in my case, also obtaining the family’s friendship and their trust.  When you get their trust, that’s when the child becomes vulnerable and you can molest the child. (Salter, 2003, p. 42)

  • Berliner, L., & Conte, J. R. (1995). The effects of disclosure and intervention on sexually abused children. Child Abuse & Neglect , 19 , 371-84.
  • Conte, J. R., Wolf, S., & Smith, T. (1989). What sexual offenders tell us about prevention strategies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 13, 293-301.
  • Elliott, M., Browne, K., & Kilcoyne, J. (1995). Child sexual abuse prevention: What offenders tell us. Child Abuse & Neglect. 19 , 579-94.
  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders . New York : Basic Books.

Myth 4:  Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents.

The fact victims often fail to disclose their abuse in a timely fashion is frequently used as evidence that an alleged victim’s story should be doubted. Research, however, shows that children who have been sexually assaulted often have considerable difficulty in revealing or discussing their abuse.

Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999). A nationally representative survey of over 3,000 women revealed that of those raped during childhood, 47% did not disclose to anyone for over 5 years post-rape. In fact, 28% of the victims reported that they had never told anyone about their childhood rape prior to the research interview. Moreover, the women who never told often suffered the most serious abuse. For instance, younger age at the time of rape, a family relationship with the perpetrator, and experiencing a series of rapes were all associated with delayed disclosure (Smith et al., 2000).

Sex offenders typically seek to make the victim feel as though he or she caused the offender to act inappropriately, and convince the child that they are the guilty party. As a result, children often have great difficulty sorting out who is responsible for the abuse and frequently blame themselves for what happened. In the end, fears of retribution and abandonment, and feelings of complicity, embarrassment, guilt, and shame all conspire to silence children and inhibit their disclosures of abuse (Pipe & Goodman, 1991; Sauzier, 1989).

Boys seem to have a particularly difficult time dealing with sexual abuse and are even less likely to report it than girls. A review of 5 community-based studies revealed that rates of non-disclosure ranged from 42% to 85% in abused men ( Lyons , 2002). Research with abused males has found that the more severe the abuse, the more likely the boy is to blame himself and the less likely he will disclose the abuse (Hunter et al., 1992). In addition to self-blame, reluctance of boys to disclose abuse may be traced to the social stigma attached to victimization, along with fears that they will be disbelieved or labeled homosexual (Watkins & Bentovim, 1992).

  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as Victims of Violence: A National Survey. Pediatrics, 94 (4, :413-420.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Hunter, J. A., Goodwin, D. W., & Wilson, R. J. (1992). Attributions of blame in child sexual abuse victims: An analysis of age and gender influences. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1, 75-89.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation . Arlington VA: National Victim Center .
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (on-line: )
  • Pipe, M. E., & Goodman, G. S. (1991). Elements of secrecy: Implications for children’s testimony. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 9, 33-41.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Smith, D. W., Letourneau, E. J., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., & Best, C. L. (2000). Delay in disclosure of childhood rape: Results from a national survey. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 273-87.
  • Watkins, B. & Bentovim, A. (1992).  The sexual abuse of male children and adolescents: A review of current research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 197-248.

Myth 5:  Children who are being abused will show physical evidence of abuse.

A lack of physical evidence of sexual assault is often cited as support that an alleged perpetrator must be innocent. However, research shows that abnormal genital findings are rare even in cases where the abuse has been proven. Some acts, like fondling and oral sex, leave no physical traces. Even injuries from penetration heal very quickly in young children and thus abnormal genital findings are not common, especially if the child is examined more than 48 hours after the abuse. In fact, even with proven penetration in up to 95% of cases, genital examinations will be essentially normal.

In one study, case files and colposcopic photographs of 236 children with perpetrator conviction for sexual abuse, were reviewed. The investigators found that genital findings in the abused girls were normal in 28%, nonspecific in 49%, suspicious in 9%, and abnormal in 14% of cases (Adams, Harper, Knudson, & Revilla, 1994).

An even lower rate of abnormal findings was found in a large scale study of the 2384 children referred for medical evaluation of sexual abuse. The investigators found that only 4% of the children had abnormal examinations at the time of evaluation. Even with a history of severe abuse such as vaginal or anal penetration, the rate of abnormal medical findings was only 5.5% (Heger, Ticson, Velasquez, & Bernier, 2002).

This low rate of abnormal findings was confirmed in a case review of children with proven sexual abuse consisting of 36 pregnant adolescent girls who presented for sexual abuse evaluations. Historical information and photograph documentation were reviewed to determine the presence or absence of genital findings that indicate penetrating trauma. Only 2 of the 36 (5.5%) pregnant girls showed definitive evidence of penetration (Kellogg, Menard, & Santos , 2004).

  • Adams, J. A., Harper, K., Knudson, S., & Revilla, J. (1994). Examination findings in legally confirmed child sexual abuse: It’s normal to be normal. Pediatrics, 94 (3), 310-7.
  • Heger, A., Ticson, L., Velasquez, O., & Bernier, R. (2002). Children referred for possible sexual abuse: medical findings in 2384 children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 645-59.
  • Kellogg, N. D., Menard, S. W., & Santos , A. (2004).  Genital anatomy in pregnant adolescents: ” Normal ” does not mean “nothing happened”. Pediatrics, 113 (1 Pt 1), 67-9.

Myth 6:  Hundreds of innocent men and women have been falsely accused and sent to prison for molesting children.

Over and over again, the media has raised the question whether America is in the midst of a hysterical overreaction to the perceived threat from pedophiles. Actual research, however, shows that, as a whole, our society continues to under-react and under-estimate the scope of the problem.

Prior to the 1980s, child sexual abuse was largely ignored, both by the law and by society as a whole. In the 1980s, when the scope of the problem began to be acknowledged, the police began to arrest adults accused of child abuse. A backlash quickly formed and police and prosecutors were soon accused of conducting “witchhunts.” Although some early cases were handled badly — mainly because the police had little experience in dealing with very young child witnesses — there is little evidence to back the assertion that there was widespread targeting of innocent people.

In fact, research has consistently shown that few abusers are ever identified or incarcerated. Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999).

Further research reveals that of the few cases reported to authorities, relatively few accused offenders are ever investigated or charged. For instance, the first National Incidence Study (Finkelhor, 1983) found that criminal action was taken in only 24% of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse — a finding replicated by Sauzier (1989). After reviewing numerous studies, Bolen (2001) noted that in the end, offenders may be convicted in only 1-2% of cases of suspected abuse known to professionals. And even then, most convicted child molesters spend less than one year in jail.

Based on the high prevalence of sexual crimes against children on our society, it strains credulity to assume that the small number of cases that are actually prosecuted constitute a “witchhunt”, or that somehow mostly innocent people are targeted for prosecution. In fact, statistics suggest quite the opposite: child abusers are rarely identified or prosecuted.

  • Bolen. R. M. (2001).  Child sexual abuse: Its scope and our failure . New York: Kluwer Academic.
  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-39.
  • Finkelhor, D. (1983). Removing the child – prosecuting the offender in cases of child sexual abuse: Evidence from the national reporting system for child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7, 195-205.
  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as victims of violence: A national survey. Pediatrics, 94, 413-20.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation. Arlington VA : National Victim Center.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Timnick, L. (August 15, 1985). The Times poll: Twenty-two percent in survey were child abuse victims. Los Angeles Times, p. 1.

Myth 7:  If asked about abuse, children tend to exaggerate and are prone to making false accusations.

Contrary to the popular misconception that children are prone to exaggerate sexual abuse, research shows that children often minimize and deny, rather than embellish what has happened to them.

In one study, researchers examined 28 cases in which prepubescent children had tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease by forensically accepted procedures. To be included in the study, the children had to have presented for a physical problem with no prior disclosure or suspicion of sexual abuse and were required to have adequate expressive language capabilities. Each of the 28 children was interviewed by a social worker trained in abuse disclosure techniques and use of anatomically correct dolls. Only 12 of the 28 (43%) of the abused children interviewed gave any verbal confirmation of sexual contact (Lawson, & Chaffin, 1992).

Another study involved a perpetrator who pled guilty after videotapes documenting his abuse of ten children were found by authorities. Because of these detailed video recordings, researchers knew exactly what had happened to these children. They were thus able to compare what the children told investigators when they were interviewed to the videotapes. Despite this abundance of hard physical evidence, the researchers found a significant tendency among the children to deny or minimize their experiences. Some children simply did not want to disclose their experiences, some had difficulties remembering them, and one child lacked adequate concepts to understand and describe them. Even when interviews included leading questions, none of the children embellished their accounts or accused the perpetrator of acts that he hadn’t actually committed (Sjoberg & Lindblad, 2002).

Some people believe that recantations are a sure sign that a child lied about the abuse. However, a recent study found that pressure from family members play a significant role in recantations. Mallory et al. (2007) examined the prevalence and predictors of recantation among 2- to 17-year-old child sexual abuse victims. Case files (n = 257) were randomly selected from all substantiated cases resulting in a dependency court filing in a large urban county between 1999 and 2000. Recantation (i.e., denial of abuse postdisclosure) was scored across formal and informal interviews. Cases were also coded for characteristics of the child, family, and abuse. The researchers found a 23.1% recantation rate. The study looked for but did not find evidence that these recantations resulted from potential inclusion of cases involving false allegations. Instead, multivariate analyses supported a filial dependency model of recantation, whereby abuse victims who were more vulnerable to familial adult influences (i.e., younger children, those abused by a parent figure and who lacked support from the nonoffending caregiver) were more likely to recant.

  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 532-42.
  • Malloy, L.C. , Lyon, T.D. , & Quas, J.A. (2007). Filial dependency and recantation of child sexual abuse allegations. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 162-70.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 312-4

Myth 8:  By using repeated interviews, therapists or police can easily implant false memories and cause false accusations among children of any age.

Although research has consistently shown that children rarely confabulate about having been abused and false allegations have been found to be rare (Everson & Boat, 1989; Jones & McGraw, 1987; Oates, et al., 2000), the potential for false allegations continues to be an area of great concern in sex abuse cases.

Whenever prominent adults are accused of abuse, we frequently hear allegations improper questioning and suggestions that the child may have invented molestation stories to please probing authority figures. We also hear concerns that inappropriate, suggestive therapies by overzealous clinicians may have shaped or implanted the allegations.

Recent research suggests that these concerns have been greatly exaggerated ( Lyons , 2001). There is now a substantial body of laboratory research which finds that children are quite reluctant to discuss embarrassing events (Lyon, 1999; 2002). Overall, laboratory research using suggestive questioning has consistently shown that negative events, especially events involving a child’s genitals, are relatively difficult to implant in children’s statements. In fact, research shows that children are more likely to fail to report negative experiences that actually did happen to them, than falsely remember ones that did not.

Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, and Moan (1991) studied the memory of 72 five and seven-year-old girls for a standardized medical checkup. Half of the children received a vaginal and anal examination as part of the checkup; while the other half of the children received a scoliosis examination of their back instead. The children’s memories were later solicited through free recall, anatomically detailed doll demonstration, and direct and misleading questions. The vast majority of vaginal and anal touch went unreported in free recall and doll demonstration, and was only disclosed when children were asked direct, doll-aided questions. The children who received a scoliosis exam never falsely reported genital touch in free recall or doll demonstration; and false reports were rare in response to direct questions.

It is also important to point out that many abused children exhibit post-traumatic and behavioral symptoms. To date no laboratory or clinical research supports the notion that children can falsely remember elaborate details of sexual abuse perpetrated by a trusted teacher, corroborate each other’s stories in independent interviews, and develop post-traumatic symptoms — based solely on police interviews or suggestive therapy.

  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113 , 403-39.
  • Everson, M.D., & Boat, B. W. (1989). False allegations of sexual abuse by children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 28 : 230-5.
  • Jones, D. P. H., & McGraw, J. M. (1987). Reliable and fictitious accounts of sexual abuse to children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 27-45.
  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7 , 532-42.
  • Lyon, T.D. (1999). The new wave of suggestibility research: A critique. Cornell Law Review, 84 , 1004-1087.
  • Lyon, T.D. (2001). Let’s not exaggerate the suggestibility of children. Court Review, 28 (3), 12-14. (on-line: )
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park , CA : Sage. (on-line: )
  • Oates, R. K., Jones, D. P., Denson, D., Sirotnak, A., Gary, N., & Krugman, R. D. (2000). Erroneous concerns about child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 , 149-57.
  • Pezdek, K., & C. Roe. (1997). The suggestibility of children’s memory for being touched: Planting, erasing, and changing memories. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 95-106.
  • Saywitz, K. J., Goodman, G. S., Nicholas, E., & Moan, S. F. (1991). Children’s memories of a physical examination involving genital touch: Implications for reports of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 59 , 682-91.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159 , 312-4.
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Sexual Abuse: Where Do I Start?


Welcome to Overcoming Sexual Abuse. If you’ve been traumatized by the horrors of sexual abuse, you are not alone. OSA is a community of survivors whose histories range from incest to stranger abduction to childhood prostitution to being leered at by a creepy coach. No matter what happened to you, it matters and you deserve to heal.

All of our histories are different, but the way the abuse affected us is very similar. We each have a unique path to healing, but healing is possible for each of us. As horrible as the abuse was and how far-reaching its effects, healing is possible. Thousands of survivors of abuse are now thriving.

The abuse was not your fault, but you have the responsibility of dealing with the effects. Nobody has the ability to heal for you. That thought may seem overwhelming, but in small steps, it’s much easier. And you don’t really have to be alone on this journey. None of us can heal for you, but we can heal with you. We’ll share the journey together and share insights and encouragement. You’re not alone.

The shame and fear that surrounds abuse often forces us to hide in the shadows, living with the secrets.

The shame and fear that surrounds abuse often forces us to hide in the shadows, living with the secrets. You’re invited to come out of that lonely silence by commenting on blog posts or joining in the discussions forum. In the discussions, there is a community of survivors who share their stories, questions, poetry, art and other projects . You can use your real name or post anonymously.

If you’re on Facebook, you’re invited to join us there for daily healing quotes and the support of an active community of survivors.

The Overcoming Sexual Abuse website is full of inspirational and informational blogs on a wide variety of topics. These are a few of the posts that you may find helpful to start with:

Is Overcoming Sexual Abuse Really Possible?
I hate blood and gore, but I love watching medical shows. When they show mangled flesh, I have to cover my eyes. It’s hard to imagine all the pain the person is suffering and even if they can be saved, the struggle of recovery. Sometimes I think it would be easier to let the person die because I don’t understand how someone could possibly recover and have a real life after having their body so torn. [continue reading...]

Preparing to Heal From Sexual Abuse
Does time heals all wounds? I’ve heard many survivors of abuse try to soothe themselves by saying, “Soon, this will pass.” It does take time to heal—and lots of it. But time alone won’t repair the soul mutilation of abuse anymore than it will repair the destruction caused by an earthquake. Sexual abuse ravages the depths of your being and to be restored, you’ll need to face each wounded area. Healing takes great quantities of perseverance, courage, strength and yes, time. [continue reading…]

Microwave Healing: I Want to Feel Better NOW
It’s time to face the facts. We live in a microwave world. We want it done and we want it done now. If I can’t put it in the microwave, I don’t want it. Every once in a while I will take the time to stir and mix my ingredients, throw it in the oven and wait a few hours for it to cook. But everyday, something is put in the microwave, a button is pushed, a few seconds later, we are ready to eat. [continue reading…]

Why Do I Need To Tell?
When I talk about my childhood sexual abuse, I see it as an opportunity to validate my inner child. As I reveal the horror of what happened to her, I’m inviting her out of the shadows of fear and shame. She’s accustomed to other’s dismissive denial, but telling the truth gives her the honor she deserves. [continue reading…]

How Do I Disclose My Abuse?
I talk about my childhood sexual abuse very publicly now, but I didn’t start there. The first time I ever told anyone I’d been abused it didn’t go very well. For years, I’d repressed most of my childhood memories when suddenly, in my early twenties, I knew I’d been abused. The knowledge came in a flash. I didn’t have any specific recall, know who my abuser was or feel any pain, but I was sure I’d been sexually abused. [continue reading…]

Six Million Dollar Healing: Completely Invested in the Process
“Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” Oscar Goldman in the opening narration to the “The Six Million Dollar Man” [continue reading…]

Getting to the Truth: The Role of Truth in Our Recovery
Abuse misinforms us about our identity and our value. Recovery is the restoration of our true selves. Find out how we uncover the truth in this ten minute audio discussion by Christina Enevoldsen and Darlene Ouimet. [listen to discussion…]

Here’s what other survivors have to say about the healing journey:

“Stay with it! It isn’t easy, it can be painful, it can exhaust you, it can even feel as though you will never come through it, but you will – and the YOU that you find on the other side of it all is worth every bit of hell finding it!” Carla

“I always thought I might die from my feelings. It took a long time to understand these feelings, just keep working at it and you will get there.” Ronald

“It is a process. Remember not to skip through healing. It takes time, a lot of time and there is no rush. Be patient and allow layers to peel off and heal as you are able. Push yourself once in awhile but be mindful of balance while this journey of healing begins. Blessings…” Freya

“I was certainly vicitimized but no longer a victim. More than a survivor. Today I am a thriver. Good luck on your journey. Hard climb but very much worth the view.” Frank

“Quite bluntly-it sucks. It’s the hardest thing that you will probably ever deal with. There will be days that you wonder if it’s worth it. You will want to just give up. For a while it will feel like you are all alone in this huge gaping hole where no one can reach you. There will be times that you want to hear that it will be okay, but even after you hear it, you still don’t believe it. However, when you make it through, it’s amazing. Just never give up. When you want to give up, know that you can be that happy again. It’s hard work, but totally worth it.” Pamela

“Sometimes you may take two steps forward and ten steps back, never give up. Deal with your feelings as they come and always be good to yourself. Surround yourself with people who encourage and empower you to be you, let go of people who bring you down and just think you can just get over what was done to you. Give your inner child the love he/she needs from your adult self. That is so important in your healing. God Bless.” Kimberly

“It’s hard, hard, exhausting work, but it’s the greatest thing in the world to be able to laugh and play and trust. It’s not something you only do in the therapist’s office or during group. You have to work on it everyday! Find something good to say to yourself everyday – even if it’s just “Hey, you parted your hair straight”, “Hey, you woke up”. Just say something and you will eventually begin to believe it. I KNOW that I am an amazing, compassionate, strong woman!! Never did I imagine that I would say something that powerful. It’s a wonderful life! You are sooo worth it!! ?” Ann

“Though it seems never ending and ‘if another person tells me it gets easier I will scream’ and a whole range of things you may be going through, actually dealing with it sooner- rather than bottling it up and then exploding later- is the best way. That way you won’t have the extra years of coping skills that didn’t work for you as an adult to unpick. It’s never easy to change how we react to things but doing it slowly and truthfully is the best way. Each of you will find the way that suits you personally, be kind to your self and take the time you need to heal. Big hugs!” Carol

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Sexual Violence: FBI Will Update Its Definition of Rape


FBI Director Robert Mueller has announced that the agency will update its definition of rape, taking effect in the spring of 2012. The FBI currently defines rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” As we have noted before, experts consider this definition to be too narrow, and it leads to the under-reporting of thousands of sexual assaults across the U.S. each year.

An FBI advisory board voted on December 6 to expand the definition of rape and sent the final decision on to Director Mueller. While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller explained his support for updating the definition:

“That definition was in some ways unworkable, certainly not applicable—fully applicable—to the types of crimes that it should cover.”

The new definition states that rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In updating its terminology, the FBI removed the requirement that a rape involve force and expanded its reach beyond only female victims.

The updated definition of rape will allow local law enforcement agencies to report more sexual assaults to the federal government. In turn, the Uniform Crime Report, the FBI’s annual report on crime statistics, will give a more accurate picture of sexual violence that is reported throughout the country.

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CSA: Dale Hansen talks about reaction to his revelation that he was molested

One reason to talk about the unmentionable is that it inherently gives others permission to share their own scars. Secrets then can stop binding people in shame…

By Robert Philpot

Posted 2:40pm on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

By the time talked with Dale Hansen about his Sunday night Thank God for Kids commentary in which he revealed that he had been sexually molested as a child, it was Tuesday morning, and Hansen started off sounding a little groggy.

It was hard to blame him. He’d spent a good deal of Monday responding to e-mails, returning from an evening station Christmas party to stick around till 2:30 replying to people who wrote in. His responses may have been as short as “Thank you very much. Dale.” But he’d read them all, and by that time, he’d received more than 1,000. And he says more than half of them would begin with people telling their own story about how they’d been abused.

“One of the most staggering e-mails I received, and I didn’t see it last night till after 2 in the morning, was from a high-school friend of mine,” Hansen says. “One of my best, best high-school friends. He’s been to the house, he’s been down here in Texas 20 times, every time I go back home for whatever reason, we get together. … And he sent me an e-mail saying ‘Oh my God, Dale, I can’t believe it. It happened to me, too. Can you imagine, Dale? In little old Logan, Iowa.’ I just about broke down crying.”

Hansen has been doing a holiday-period “Thank God for Kids” since 1982, and he says that in the e-mail era, most of them have generated about 150 to 300 e-mails. He wrote one about troubles with his children a few years ago, and that generated about 900 e-mails. But this has exceeded that, and the e-mails are still coming in. He spent about 4 to 6:15 p.m. Monday doing nothing but replying to e-mails, and when he had to go on the air, there were nearly 300 more new ones to deal with.

One writer said he’d kept his secret for 61 years (Hansen spoke out after 53). “I wanted you to be the first to know,” the writer said. “If you’re telling, I’m telling, and I want everyone else to know.” Another said it happened to her when she was 8. She’s now 31 and said she would tell her husband and family.

“One woman writes where she was molested by her grandfather,” Hansen says. “Her stepdad then beat her up when she did tell, because it ruined the family. So he spanks and beats this little 12-year-old girl for telling, and they know [the grandfather] did it — and then two years later, [the stepfather] raped her.” He also heard from people in Panama and Switzerland.

This was, Hansen says, one of the reactions he was looking for — to get other people to tell their stories, to get things out in the light, to tell their families and loved ones. But another common reaction was praise for having the courage to speak up on the air about his own experience. But Hansen says he doesn’t think courage comes into it as much as some people think.”

“I’ve heard that so many times, and while it’s incredibly flattering, I don’t see it that way,” Hansen says. “I didn’t write it thinking that. I guess in part because it was 53 years ago; in part because as bad as it was, it wasn’t as bad as I know other people had to deal with. I did feel, and I’ve heard this a lot, that maybe if I’d open up, it would help other people deal with the shame that I know other people feel. And it’s somewhat what I did feel all these years.”

Hansen says he was inspired to write the commentary after having had several arguments with friends about the Penn State scandal, in which he’s heard people ask why the alleged victims of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky didn’t speak up earlier and questioning whether they were telling the truth because they took so long to speak up.

“I would sit there, knowing full well that, no, they don’t [tell],” Hansen says. “That was my primary reason for writing it. I wanted to try to explain in my little way that we do keep this in the closet. We do keep this hidden. And kids suffer as a result of it, because they don’t tell, they’re afraid to tell, or they think they shouldn’t tell. And I know for a fact that’s the way it is for a lot of them.”

A key point of Hansen’s commentary was to encourage parents to talk to their kids, and perhaps more important, to let their kids know not to be afraid to talk to them. But he also knows that there may be other reasons that children who have been molested are afraid to talk.

“If I accuse you of stealing my money, the immediate response from everyone is not that I’m a liar,” Hansen says. “You get the so-called benefit of the doubt in terms of innocent until proven guilty, but I doubt that everybody in town would call me a liar. … But I know for a fact that kids are referred to as liars, that ‘They’re making it up, they’re trying to get attention.’ It’s this hidden problem in our society, and my God, if my e-mails are any indication at all, it’s a problem that’s completely out of proportion.”

Reaction — on and elsewhere — to Hansen’s piece has been so strong, it may qualify Hansen’s commentary as the top local-media story of the year. Most reaction has been supportive; some commenters (here and elsewhere), however, have criticized Hansen for making himself part of the story. Which he cops to. And which he’s OK with.

“That’s a pretty standard criticism I get for a lot of things I do,” says Hansen, who’s known for his outspokenness. “I think I have a certain freedom in sports that people don’t have in hard-core news, and certainly when it comes to commentary, and I think it’s the reason I’ve been doing it for 30 years in Dallas. I believe I connect with my audience more than other people do, and I do it because I wear my emotions on my sleeve.”

Here’s Hansen’s segment again:


Dale Hansen: ’Thank God for Kids’

Sexual abuse of our children is the cancer that lives and walks among us, but a cancer survivor wears their ribbon proudly and we all stand to cheer as they walk by in their annual parade. But who stands to cheer for the victim of a sexual assault? view full article

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CSA: Geneen Roth quote

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core… you doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself.” –Geneen Roth

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