all things social work

CSA: At PSU, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard recounts abuse

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 1:14 pm | Updated: 1:24 pm, Mon Oct 29, 2012.

Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Retired boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard says he cried for Jerry Sandusky’s accusers after hearing of the former Penn State assistant coach’s arrest on child sex abuse charges nearly a year ago.

A survivor himself, Leonard spoke about his own experiences Monday at the university’s inaugural conference to raise awareness about combating abuse.

Leonard says it’s still a difficult topic, but he wants to be a leader in speaking out about against abuse and encouraging victims to come forward. Experts say cases of child sex abuse are underreported.

Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison after being convicted on dozens of criminal counts. Eight accusers testified at trial.

Leonard says he would tell those accusers that speaking out about their experiences may prevent others from experiencing abuse

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CSA: Boy Scouts’ banned sex abusers posted online

By Carl Prine and Andrew Conte

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 9:48 p.m.
Updated 14 hours ago

Long kept secret by the Boy Scouts of America, the names of nearly 1,900 volunteers banned by the organization for alleged sexual abuse is now online, and it includes 21 Western Pennsylvania men — most of them accused of molesting kids in their care between 1968 and 1991.

Their identities were culled from stacks of cases termed the “Perversion Files” by the Scouts and were released publicly on Monday by Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, a civil litigator who has lawsuits against the Scouts and other institutions accused of fostering a culture of child sexual abuse.

Scouring the rolls, the Tribune-Review counted 88 adult male volunteers across Pennsylvania banished by the Scouts. In Western Pennsylvania, 21 men tied to 23 troops from 1974 to 1991 were placed on the worldwide ban, including five former Scout leaders in Pittsburgh and one each in Arnold, Wilmerding, Butler, McKees Rocks and Duquesne.

Following a recent Oregon Supreme Court decree, the Portland firm of O’Donnell Clark & Crew plans on Oct. 18 to release tens of thousands of redacted pages from the same files, forcing communities nationwide to confront a legacy of alleged molestation covered up by one of America’s most trusted institutions.

“I intended for this to be used by victims and their families as a useful key, a guidepost, for understanding the thousands of documents that are going to be released,” Kosnoff said.

“The irony is that the Boy Scouts of America is a well-organized machine that’s more like a modern corporation than many people realize,” he added. “It documented these cases and retained these files. And they did that for 100 years, perhaps compiling more than 20,000 files against individuals.”

Local Scout leaders refused to comment on the latest round of disclosures, referring Tribune-Review inquiries to officials at the organization’s Dallas headquarters who did not return messages. In the past, officials there have insisted that they’ve reformed antiquated rules for combating the abuse of children, making scouting safer than ever before.

The “Perversion” dossier was intended to serve both as a formal blacklist of suspected sex criminals and as a means to block the accused volunteers from suing the Scouts for violating their due process rights. But in recent years the catalog of alleged violators has aided lawsuits charging the organization with tolerating the abuse of thousands of children in order to protect its institutional reputation.

“The files show that the focus wasn’t on the victims,” Kosnoff said. “People can see with their own eyes the patterns and the scope of the problem in the organization that made this abuse possible.”

Three Western Pennsylvania troops reported multiple allegations of misconduct, a Trib review of the documents shows. Pittsburgh Troop 527, for example, triggered complaints against four volunteers from 1989 to 1991. They included Samuel “Tiny” Nugent, 63, of Erie, banned by the Scouts in 1989 and convicted two years later of molestation.

He’s joined on both the Scouts’ list and the Megan’s Law catalog of Pennsylvania’s sexual predators by Albert William Otte, 55, of Butler; John Stephen Ricci, 63, of Enon Valley; Michael L. Flavin, 61, of Erie; and Raymond Alexander, 65, who now lives in Philadelphia.

Scout officials in Arnold placed Flavin on the blacklist in 1990 after his arrest on molestation charges. Alexander was banned in 1991 after Wilmerding Scouts alleged a lengthy pattern of misconduct dating back 13 years. Accused of violating children in Beaver County, Ricci resigned from the Scouts in 1986, according to the files. Similar allegations forced Otte out of two Butler troops in 1991.

The Trib was unable to reach any of them for comment; none has a listed phone number.

Seven of the 21 local men were convicted in Pennsylvania of sex crimes against children, though the violations that led to blacklisting by the Scouts vary widely. One case involved a 14-year-old boy who dropped his pants, making a fellow Scout “feel weird.” Another blocked a volunteer in Windber in Somerset County, who previously had been accused of molestation. He allegedly tried to give alcohol to boys and take their pictures.

Everyone on the list had the opportunity to appeal their bans, and they either failed to convince Scouting officials of their innocence or never tried to refute the allegations, Kosnoff said.

Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on sex crimes against children does not expire until the victim reaches 50 years of age, except for cases before 1984. That will prevent prosecutors from ever indicting five of the men on the Scout list for allegedly molesting kids in Pittsburgh, Bethel Park, Summerville, Jefferson County; Farrell, Mercer County; and Clintonville, Venango County.

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape spokeswoman Kristen Houser in Harrisburg said the ongoing scandal at Penn State University tied to convicted pedophile football coach Jerry Sandusky and the deluge of data from the Boy Scouts’ files should prod all parents and institutions to redouble their efforts to protect children. Organizations must ensure that they comply with all state laws mandating the reporting and vetting of sexual predators, she said, and they should schedule regular training for both staffers and volunteers on spotting and stopping abuse. Moms and dads can help, too.

“‘I’m watching. I know what I’m looking for, and I’ll hold you accountable.’ That’s a message parents can send,” Houser said.

The Boy Scout lists now online likely will affect victims differently, said Christopher Anderson, executive director of MaleSurvivor, a New York-based nonprofit that aids grown victims of sexual assault. Some will recall terrible memories, but others will feel vindicated.

“It will stir up a lot of emotions for many survivors,” Anderson said.

Carl Prine and Andrew Conte are
staff writers for Trib Total Media.
Prine can be reached at 412-320-7826
Conte can be reached at 412-320-7835 or

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CSA: Protect Your Child from a Predator

By Jessica Snyder Sachs from Parents Magazine

When I was in fifth grade, I begged my parents to let me quit music lessons. But I didn’t tell them why. I feared what might happen if they knew what the teacher had done to me after saying he loved me and leading me away to a dark bedroom.

Suffice it to say that when my own daughter started lessons at age 5, I plopped myself down in the same room with a book.

Fortunately, there’s a much greater awareness about child sexual abuse than there was in my youth. In fact, there’s a much greater awareness than there was just 12 months ago, before former Penn State University’s football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing ten boys over a 15-year period. (Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.)

That horrifying case has sparked a national conversation about child sexual abuse, as well as a significant increase in calls to hotlines from people seeking support and guidance about preventing or stopping it. In just the first two weeks after the allegations surfaced, the national organization Stop It Now!, which works to prevent child sexual abuse, experienced a 130 percent increase in contacts.

What many parents now understand is that sexual abuse is quite common. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Roughly 90 percent of offenders are relatives of their victim, or acquaintances such as neighbors, family friends, teachers, and coaches. “Child predators can appear to the outside world to be warm, caring, loving, and respectful,” says Robin Sax, author of Predators and Child Molesters and a former Los Angeles prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes against children. “It is these very traits that allow them to continue their horrific acts.”

That’s one reason why the prevention strategies that many of us have heard before aren’t very helpful. Expecting kids to sort out the difference between positive and negative touch can backfire, for instance, because sexual abuse doesn’t always start out feeling “yucky.” It doesn’t necessarily hurt, nor does it have to involve touch. (Such is the case when adults show pornography to kids or get them to expose themselves for photos.) And suggesting your child “yell and tell” if a grown-up makes him feel uncomfortable can be a tall order. This is especially true when the offender is an authority figure who has worked hard to win your child’s trust.

Unfortunately, children will often keep abuse secret because they feel confused, scared, or guilty. “An abuser typically shames his victim or threatens a child with what will happen if she tells,” says Anne Lee, founder of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit in Charleston, South Carolina, dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. It’s important to encourage children to ask for help if anything makes them feel mixed up or confused, says Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. But avoid using the word should. By saying “You should scream” or “You should run,” it puts the burden on the child. (And if you happen to share this advice with a child who has already been abused, it gives the unintended message that he was responsible for protecting himself, she adds.)

So how can you best safeguard your children? The best prevention involves having somewhat difficult conversations with your child but making sure they’re age-appropriate. (See “Preventing Abuse” on the next page.) Also, trust your gut. “Go with your instincts if anything bothers you about someone who spends time with your child,” Sax says. That includes the neighbor or person from church who is overly eager to help you out by babysitting or just taking your kid off your hands. Having a bad vibe is not necessarily enough to make a crime report, but it’s plenty to justify your not allowing that person access to your kid. “In a school setting, always report an uneasy feeling to administrators, because they are mandated reporters and are trained to decide whether the situation warrants further attention,” she explains. You are not liable, as long as there is something suspicious that warrants the report.

Prevention and warning signs

Know Who’s In Your Child’s Life

Girl with teddy bear

Since we can’t always be right there with our kids, we need to know that they are always in supervised situations with trustworthy adults. Today many youth organizations have policies such as the Boy Scouts of America’s “two-deep leadership” rule, which requires at least two adults on all outings. If your child belongs to a group with this guideline, make him aware of it so he can tell you if it’s not being used.

Similarly, check whether your child’s day care, school, and after-school programs have an open-door policy, along with either an actual open door or a window into every room where kids spend time. (Many classrooms have at least a small window built into each door.) Ideally, this should be combined with regular, unexpected visits by supervisors. In fact, for any situation that’s innately private (such as counseling), there should be a door with a window, so you always have the chance to observe, says Johnson.

If you use a nanny or another unsupervised caregiver, don’t stop with a check of her background and references. Occasionally drop in unannounced. And make it clear that you don’t want your child left in someone else’s care without your permission, since it’s possible that a friend or a family member of the caregiver could have sexual- behavior problems, says Johnson. This is particularly important if care takes place in a home where other grown-ups or older kids may be around.

Get to know the coaches, clergy, teachers, and other adults in your child’s world and observe how they interact with her. Show up to practice, involve yourself in activities, and volunteer in the classroom. And if anything feels off, talk to other parents and compare notes. “Listen up when they express concerns or uncomfortable feelings, and strategize as a group about how you can ensure the safety of one another’s kids,” says Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for the anti-sexual violence coalition Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which founded the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

It’s also crucial to become acquainted with your children’s friends. Pay special attention to friendships involving older kids, which can lead to vulnerable situations. More than a third of those who sexually abuse children are under the age of 18 themselves. In many instances, a child may not grasp that his actions toward another child are harmful, says Deborah Donovan Rice, executive director of Stop It Now!

Recognize Red Flags

Only one in five kids who have been sexually abused will report it, says Robin Castle, child sexual abuse prevention manager at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. (The majority of survivors wait until they’re older to talk about it.) “It’s very, very hard for a child to disclose, even under the best of circumstances,” she explains. So you need to watch for warning signs. “If your child tells you that he doesn’t want to be around a particular person or take part in certain outings, take him seriously,” says Lee, who speaks from personal experience. As a child she was abused repeatedly by an uncle who told her no one would love her if they found out what she’d done. She kept quiet but tearfully dreaded annual gatherings at the family’s summer cabin.

Some children may show physical signs such as unexplained urinary infections, redness, or swelling in the genital area. Other kids may have stomachaches, headaches, or sudden bedwetting. Behavioral signs can include angry outbursts, sleep problems, withdrawal, or a drop in grades. Sexual precociousness is another worrisome sign; perhaps the child starts making sexual comments or showing inappropriate sexual behaviors. Of course, none of these actions points specifically to sexual abuse, but they may warrant a consultation with a child psychologist or a pediatrician who’s been trained in child abuse.

Above all else, keep this in mind: “If you suspect that your child—or any child—has been abused, the most important thing is to not investigate it on your own,” insists Johnson. Extensive questioning may jeopardize an ensuing investigation. Instead, immediately report your suspicion to your state child-protection-services agency (find a state-by-state list at

How to Talk About Abuse

If your child ever discloses abuse to you, you have one main responsibility: “Listen for all you’re worth, and be loving and supportive,” says Johnson. Incidents reported by children are rarely false, experts agree. There’s no template for this discussion; it depends heavily on the child’s age, the possible suspect, and how long ago the potential abuse may have occurred. But you should follow certain guidelines. First, have the conversation in private. Be aware of your body language: Lean forward, make eye contact, and get close to his eye level to help your child feel more comfortable, says psychologist Julie Medlin, Ph.D., coauthor with Steven Knauts, Ph.D., of Avoiding Sexual Dangers: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Your Child.

Immediately reassure your child that you believe him and that he did the right thing by telling you. Keep your questions open-ended (“What did you do together?” “What happened next?”), avoiding detailed ones that are suggestive, such as “Did he put his mouth on your penis?”

Unfortunately, some parents deny the abuse (“Your Uncle John would never do such a thing!”), blame the child (“How could you let this happen?”), or become hysterical (“I’ll kill him!”). Such responses can cause kids to shut down or alter their story out of fear. Instead, reiterate to your child that you are not upset with him and that it’s not his fault.

If there’s any good news here, it’s this: “Sexually abused children who receive support and help can and do heal,” says David Finkelhor, Ph.D., director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. Research has shown that the majority of sexually abused kids grow up with no significant mental-health or behavioral problems, he adds. The factors that appear to help include social support, strong self-esteem, and a child’s understanding that she was not to blame for the abuse. Child psychologists and psychiatrists with specialized training can help kids begin the process of overcoming the trauma. This is why it’s so crucial for children to speak up. “Keeping the secret can subliminally reinforce feelings of shame that can be harmful later in life,” says Houser.

Though as a child I chose not to disclose my abuse—fearing that it would cause turmoil in our close-knit community—I thrived anyway. But I am well aware that I’m more fortunate than many people who have been through a similar experience. When I try to understand why I came out of the experience relatively unscathed, I believe it stemmed from my self- confidence and my refusal to take any blame. Both were inspired by my parents’ unconditional love.

Preventing Abuse: An Age-By-Age Guide

Depending on your child’s developmental stage, you’ll need to focus on specific issues and address (or avoid) certain topics.

Ages 2-4
Use the right language. “Skip the euphemisms,” says Robin Sax. “Call a vagina a vagina and a penis a penis.” This decreases potential confusion and improves your child’s ability to discuss sexual situations.

Explain what’s private. Tell her that besides herself, her parents, and her doctor (and caregiver if your child’s still in diapers), no one should touch her private parts. If anyone does, she can tell you and you won’t be mad.

Give him ownership of his body. Has a stranger ever ruffled your child’s hair, telling you how cute he is? Your tendency may be to politely tolerate the behavior. But it’s a great teachable moment. Saying “I don’t feel comfortable having someone we don’t know touching my kids” models to your child that it’s okay to say “no” to touch—even from outwardly “nice” people.

Be a safe refuge. You may think this is obvious to your child, but explicitly state that she can tell you if she ever feels confused or scared about anything and that you’ll help and love her no matter what has happened.

Break the taboo around sexuality. If your 4-year-old asks where babies come from, for instance, give her a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. “If we tell a child she’s not old enough to know, or to not ask such questions, then we’ve given the message that this subject is off-limits,” says Robin Castle.

Ages 5-8
Reinforce boundaries. Support your child if he wants to say “No, thank you” to hugs or kisses from relatives. If your son is squirming away as Grandma leans in give him a kiss, you can say, “Vincent isn’t really in the mood for a kiss right now, and that’s okay, isn’t it, Grandma?” suggests Linda E. Johnson.

Head off guilty feelings. Don’t wait until you suspect something is wrong. “Kids need to hear that it is never their fault if someone behaves sexually with them and that they can always come to you,” says Jolie Logan, CEO of Darkness to Light. In doing so, you help take away the perpetrator’s most powerful weapons—shame and fear. Bathtime is one opportunity to talk about bodies and boundaries, says Logan (“I want you to understand that people shouldn’t touch your private parts, or ask you to touch theirs”). Or use current events: “There are grown-ups who like to do inappropriate things with children, and it’s my job as a parent to keep you safe. You can always come to me if you feel uncomfortable.”

Teach Internet safety. Many experts consider kids this age too young to be online by themselves. Use parental controls to limit her access, and explain that people are not always who they claim to be online. Insist your child never disclose personal information, and ask her to tell you if she ever feels uncomfortable about messages she receives.

Ages 9 and up
Continue the conversation. As children near adolescence, their peers could sexually threaten them. Indeed, your child’s own budding sexuality may get him into situations that offenders may readily take advantage of. Look for chances to talk about this; it can include brainstorming ways for your child to avoid or get out of uncomfortable situations with peers. Reinforce that it is never a child’s fault when someone mistreats her.

Monitor devices. Kids can easily, and often accidentally, access porn through smartphones and gaming systems such as Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP that can be connected to the Internet. “We’re seeing a record- high number of these cases in our practice,” says Dr. Julie Medlin. “Most parents have no idea that their kids can access porn so easily in this way, nor do they understand just how much of a negative impact such exposure can have on the child’s sexuality.” Consult your device’s user guide to enable parental controls and limit access to certain games with mature content and to manage Web browsing, chat features, and purchases.

Help identify trusted adults. Many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents, Sax says. So she encourages teaching kids to seek out adults whom they feel comfortable turning to when something is bothering them. She adds that they should continue to tell until someone acts on the issue. By law, teachers and school counselors must report suspected abuse to authorities, and in 18 states (and Puerto Rico), all adults who suspect abuse are required to report.

Where to turn for help

Childhelp USA maintains a 24-hour National Child Abuse Hotline.

National Children’s Alliance has nearly 700 advocacy centers nationwide and helps with the process of reporting and recovering from abuse.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has a free, confidential, secure service that allows victims past and present to get help via its phone and online hotlines.

Stop it Now! also offers a phone and an e-mail Helpline dedicated to sexual-abuse prevention. Its Ask Now! advice column features actual situations so people can seek guidance for their own concerns.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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CSA: Huge Win for Victims of Child Abuse Imagery

On October 1, 2012 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that victims depicted in child abuse imagery have a right to restitution when a defendant is found in possession of the images, regardless of whether the defendant created or distributed them.  This ruling is significant for victims of these crimes, whose images are often spread widely among networks of criminals who view their abuse, resulting in thousands and thousands of viewings.  Imagine knowing that images of your abuse as a child are being viewed around the world for years, with no way to halt this re-victimization.  The reality is that every time a victim of this abuse has his or her image viewed, the victim suffers new harm.  Full restitution is absolutely necessary.  NCVLI has been working on this and related cases from the beginning – submitting an amicus brief on the issue and publishing a Bulletin (available on our victim law library, or by clicking here.) on the importance of restitution for victims of child abuse imagery.  Read the New & Noteworthy Court Opinion of this recent decision here

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