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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP)–April is child abuse awareness month. 22News spoke with the father of an abuse victim about raising awareness for these victims.
Jeffery Suriano told 22News he thought he failed his daughter when she first told him she had been repeatedly sexually abuse
As an award winning EMT, Seriano is in the business of helping and protecting people. But when it came to his own daughter, he was shocked that he hadn’t been able to stop a two year long situation of sexual abuse.
He spoke of her bravery of coming forward with the information and how critical it is to be attentive to the people in your child’s life.
Suriano said it’s a parent’s job to be skeptical, even of those closest to your child, so you can be your child’s advocate.
“When they’re children, they think that they’re doing something wrong. I mean when my daughter reported she described it as a relationship. She was 14. Your not capable of that kind of relationship. That’s not a relationship, this is a crime,” Suriano said.
Seriano’s daughter’s abuser was former theatre director David Freid Oppenheim. He has since been convicted on child rape charges.
If you suspect a child you know is getting abused call or go to your local police department. There is also help available at northwesternda.org, or by calling the Children’s Advocacy Center (413) 586-9225, or (413) 774-3186.
Previously unheard track set to be released is about child abuse: Songs lyrics tell of 12 year old who runs away from home and turns to prostitution.
Song Do You Know Where Your Children are recorded before singer’s death
Track is one of eight to be ‘contemporised’ and included on album Xscape
Song tells of girl who is sexually abused by her step-father
The track includes the lyrics ‘Save me (from this living hell)’
Fans believe it was written in response to abuse claims against the singer
In 2005 Jackson was acquitted of child sexual abuse
A previously unheard Michael Jackson track set to be released on the singer’s forthcoming posthumous album is about child abuse.
The new song, entitled Do You Know Where Your Children Are, tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who runs away from her abusive stepfather and turns to prostitution.
It is one of eight tracks recorded by the singer before his death in June 2009 at the age of 50 which will feature on the new album Xscape, set to be released in May.
A convicted paedophile is back behind bars for grooming underage girls for sex – just months after being released from prison for rape.
Darren Whitby, aged 38, of Oak Bank in Hockley, Birmingham, had been jailed for 12 years in 2001 for raping children aged three and five, as well as indecent assault and gross indecency.
And he has today been given another 18 years behind bars after explicit texts were found on the phones of underage teenage girls, including messages encouraging them to send him naked ‘selfies’ via text or Facebook.
He also encouraged them to meet him for sex.
Whitby was only caught as one of his victims had racked up a £355 phone bill. Her father spotted Whitby’s number as one of the most frequently dialled and alerted police.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual grooming, breaching a sex offender register order, sexual assault and three counts of sexual activity with a child.
Here we address some myths that everyone absorbs to some extent, especially boys and men who’ve had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. These myths are big obstacles to understanding and healing, so it’s really important to know just how wrong they are.
Before addressing the myths, let’s review some key facts:
- Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
- If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
- Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
- The sexual abuse of boys has nothing to do with an abuser’s sexual orientation.
- A boy abused by a male is not necessarily gay, nor was he abused because he’s gay, nor can the abuse make him gay.
- Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
- Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.
Myth 1 — Boys can’t be sexually used or abused, and if one is, he can never be a “real man.”
Everyone absorbs the myth that males aren’t victims, to some extent. It’s central to masculine gender socialization, and boys pick up on it very early in life. This myth implies that a boy or man who has been sexually used or abused will never be a “real man.” Our society expects males to be able to protect themselves. Successful men are depicted as never being vulnerable, either physically or emotionally. (See How It Can Be Different for Men and How Being Male Can Make It Hard to Heal.)
But boys are not men. They are children. They are weaker and more vulnerable than those who sexually abuse or exploit them – who use their greater size, strength and knowledge to manipulate or coerce boys into unwanted sexual experiences and staying silent. This is usually done from a position of authority (e.g., coach, teacher, religious leader) or status (e.g. older cousin, admired athlete, social leader), using whatever means are available to reduce resistance, such as attention, special privileges, money or other gifts, promises or bribes, even outright threats.
What happens to any of us as children does not need to define us as adults or men. It is important to remember that that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18 (see The 1 in 6 Statistic), and that those boys can grow up to be strong, powerful, courageous and healthy men. Examples are found on our website (see Other Guys Like Me), and there are many others out there.
Myth 2 — If a boy experienced sexual arousal during abuse, he wanted and/or enjoyed it, and if he ever did partly want the sexual experiences, then they were his fault.
Many boys and men believe this myth and feel lots of guilt and shame because they got physically aroused during the abuse. It is important to understand that males can respond to sexual stimulation with an erection or even an orgasm – even in sexual situations that are traumatic or painful. That’s just how male bodies and brains work. Those who sexually use and abuse boys know this. They often attempt to maintain secrecy, and to keep the abuse going, by telling the child that his sexual response shows he was a willing participant and complicit in the abuse. “You wanted it. You liked it,” they say.
But that doesn’t make it true. Boys are not seeking to be sexually abused or exploited. They can, however, be manipulated into experiences they do not like, or even understand, at the time. (See Guilt and Shame.)
There are many situations where a boy, after being gradually manipulated with attention, affection and gifts, feels like he wants such attention and sexual experiences. In an otherwise lonely life (for example, one lacking in parental attention or affection – even for a brief period), the attention and pleasure of sexual contact from someone the boy admires can feel good.
But in reality, it’s still about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation. It’s still about a boy who was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the boy’s needs for attention and affection to use him sexually. (See Sorting It Out for Yourself, which discusses feeling like you (partly) ‘wanted’ it then but now seeing it as an unwanted experience, in terms of it being part of your life and having continuing negative effects.)
Myth 3 — Sexual abuse is less harmful to boys than girls.
Most studies show that the long term effects of sexual abuse can be quite damaging for both males and females. One large study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, found that the sexual abuse of boys was more likely to involve penetration of some kind, which is associated with greater psychological harm.
The harm caused by sexual abuse mostly depends on things not determined by gender, including: the abuser’s identity, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped.
Many boys suffer harm because adults who could believe them and help are reluctant, or refuse, to acknowledge what happened and the harm it caused. This increases the harm, especially the shame felt by boys and men, and leads many to believe they have to “tough it out” on their own. And that, of course, makes it harder to seek needed help in the midst of the abuse, or even years later when help is still needed. (See How Unwanted or Abusive Sexual Experiences Can Cause Problems and How Being Male Can Make It Hard to Heal.)
Myth 4 — Most sexual abuse of boys is committed by homosexual males.
People who sexually abuse or exploit boys are not expressing homosexuality – any more than people who sexually abuse or exploit girls are engaging in heterosexual behavior. They are deeply confused individuals who, for various reasons, desire to sexually use or abuse children, and have acted on that desire. (See Why Do People Sexually Use or Abuse Children?)
Myth 5 — Boys abused by males must be gay or will become gay.
There are different theories about how sexual orientation develops, but experts in human sexuality do not believe that sexual abuse or premature sexual experiences play a significant role. There is no good evidence that someone can “make” another person be homosexual (or heterosexual). Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual.
It is common, however, for boys and men who have been abused to express confusion about their sexual identity and orientation. Some guys fear that, due to their experiences as boys, they must “really” be homosexual or that they can’t be a “real man.” Even men who are clearly heterosexual, and men who others see as very masculine, may fear that others will “find them out” as gay or not real men. (See How It Can Be Different for Men.)
Also, many boys abused by males believe that something about them sexually attracted their abuser and will attract other males. While these are understandable fears, they are not true. One of the great tragedies of childhood sexual abuse is how it robs a person’s natural right to discover his own sexuality in his own time.
It is very important to remember that abuse arises from the abuser’s failure to develop and maintain healthy adult sexual relationships, and his or her willingness to sexually use and abuse kids. It has nothing to do with the preferences or desires of the child who is abused, and therefore cannot determine a person’s natural sexual identity.
Myth 6 — If a female used or abused a boy, he was “lucky,” and if he doesn’t feel that way there’s something wrong with him.
This myth, like several of the others, comes from the image of masculinity that boys learn from very early. It says not only that males can’t be sexually abused, but that any sexual experience with girls and women, especially older ones, is evidence that he’s a “real man.” Again, the confusion comes from focusing on the sexual aspect rather than the abusive one – the exploitation and betrayal by a more powerful, trusted or admired person (who can be a child or adult).
In reality, premature, coerced or otherwise abusive or exploitive sexual experiences are never positive – whether they are imposed by an older sister, sister of a friend, baby sitter, neighbor, aunt, mother, or any other female in a position of power over a boy. At a minimum, they cause confusion and insecurity. They almost always harm boys’ and men’s capacities for trust and intimacy.
Being sexually used or abused, whether by males or females, can cause a variety of other emotional and psychological problems. However, boys and men often don’t recognize the connections between what happened and their later problems. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is never a good thing, and can cause lasting harm.
Myth 7 — Boys who are sexually abused will go on to abuse others.
This myth is especially dangerous because it can create terrible fear in boys and men. They may not only fear becoming abusers themselves, but that others will find out they were abused and believe they’re a danger to children. Sadly, boys and men who tell of being sexually abused often are viewed more as potential perpetrators than as guys who need support.
While it is true that many (though by no means all) who sexually abuse children have histories of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most boys who are sexually abused go on to sexually abuse others. The majority of boys do not go on to become sexually abusive as adolescents or adults; even those who do perpetrate as teenagers, if they get help when they’re young, usually don’t abuse children when they become adults. (See Am I Going to Become an Abuser? What if I Already Have?)
Believing these myths is understandable, but dangerous and harmful, and needs to be overcome.
- These are myths that everyone absorbs growing up, and continues to hear as adults, usually without even thinking about it. So of course some boys and men will, at least for a while, believe them and suffer the consequences.
- So long as societies believe these myths, and teach them to children from their earliest years, many men harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences won’t get the recognition and help they need.
- So long as boys or men harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences believe these myths, they will feel ashamed and be less likely to seek whatever knowledge, understanding and help they need to achieve the lives they want and deserve.
- So long as boys, men and society as a whole believes these myths and males don’t get the help they need, males are more likely to join the minority who end up hurting others.
- And so long as these myths are believed, it increases the power of another devastating myth: that it was the child’s fault. It is never the fault of the child in a sexual situation – although some people are skilled at getting those they use or abuse to take on a responsibility that is always, and only, their own.
For any man harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences – and anyone who wants to support him – becoming free of these myths is necessary to overcoming the effects of the abuse, and to achieving the life he wants and deserves.
Last week, Shanesha Taylor left her children, ages 2 and 6, in her Dodge Durango. The windows were cracked and the doors were locked when a passerby heard the baby crying from the backseat and reported the unsupervised little ones to the authorities. When Taylor returned, the police were waiting for her in the parking lot of the office complex she left her truck in.She explained that she had been on a job interview and didn’t have anyone to watch her kids while she was there. The 35-year-old was arrested, charged with child abuse, and photographed in what may be the most heartbreaking mugshot I’ve seen in years.
That might seem like a tidy instance of realized justice. But if you’ve ever been in a bind—because of single motherhood, extreme brokeness, or lack of general support—you can empathize. You should empathize. Taylor and her children are homeless. A job is the catalyst to changing their circumstances, but she didn’t have childcare because she doesn’t have the job she needs to afford it. It’s an ethical catch 22.
If you’ve never suffered a life-altering hardship, congratulations. It must be an honor seemingly handed down from on high to have dodged the innumerable blindsides that are the unforeseen companions to living. That’s not me being factitious unless, of course, you’re judging her.
The effects of homelessness are far-reaching socially and culturally, but the immediate impact on families, particularly children, are deeper, more personal. The fact that parents have to make decisions like this, whether they leave them alone at home or in a locked car in a parking lot, is telling. There are organizations working on grassroots and community levels to offer support, but often, there aren’t enough resources to go around and even their best intentions leave people who need help out.
There’s also the issue of pride that—despite the availability of outside help—shrouds the need for help in secrecy. But the community is reaching out to her. A fundraiser is Picking up the tab for her $9,000 bond and the movement to help her, which now stands in excess of $29,000, is blowing up thanks to Twitter and social media do-gooders. (Donations are still being accepted if you feel so led, and I kinda hope you do.)
One thing is certain: no parent should be forced to make the decision between their children’s safety and a job they need to take care of them.
Do you think Taylor should be charged with felony child abuse?
An Oregon mother who beat her all of her children on a regular basis was especially hard on her three-year-old son. Allegedly, on the day before Zachary’s fourth birthday his mother, Jessica Dutro, beat him to death because she presumed he was gay. Earlier this month Brian Canady, Jessica’s live-in boyfriend, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for Zachary’s death. In August 2012 little Zachary died from stomach injuries while the family was living in Tigard at the Good Neighbor shelter. Director of the Good Neighbor Center, Jack Schwab, said Jessica and Brian lived at the shelter for five, maybe six weeks. Even though the staff believed the children behaved a bit strangely there was never any apparent sign of child abuse.
Read more here
A former swimming instructor, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a boy over a four year period, has been jailed for four and a half years at Derry’s Crown Court.
Brendan McGowan , 69 and from Brewster’s Close in the city, pleaded guilty to six charges of indecently assaulting the boy, two charges of committing gross indecency with the boy and one charge of inciting him to commit an act of gross indecency.
The abuse started in September 1989 when the victim was aged 12.
At the time, McGowan was employed by Derry City Council at the City Baths in William Street and at Templemore Sports Complex.
McGowan committed the offences in his then Colmcille Court flat in the Bogside area of the city.
Judge Philip Babington said McGowan, who shared a love of jazz with the boy, “used flattery as well as an element of grooming and seduction to carry out the abuse”.
At one stage, during the abuse, he said to the boy: “I thought you knew I was gay.”
Judge Babington said McGowan, a gay rights activist who had set up a help line and support group for gay people, had difficulties in accepting responsibility for his behaviour.
He said McGowan was 33 years older than his victim “whom you abused for your own desire” and that he had initiated a course of offending which was particularly unpleasant for his victim.
McGowan will spend eighteen months in jail followed by three years on probation.
When he’s released from jail, he will have to inform the police of his whereabouts for the following ten years.
He has also been disqualified from working with children.
A cloud-based service that will enable law enforcement in the UK to quickly compare seized child abuse content against an international database is to launch in the next six months. The ultimate goal is to help authorities quickly identify the most recent material, to help save victims depicted in that content.
According to the body coordinating the effort, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, the renewed focus on tracking victims rather than abusers has led to 80 children being rescued in the past 18 months.
The system is part of Project Vic, an international collaboration that began with Homeland Security and federal law enforcement divisions in the US, and now includes Interpol and forces in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and more. Data analytics software from NetClean and Hubstream has been integral to the project’s growth, along with Microsoft’s PhotoDNA.
According to Johann Hofmann, product manager for NetClean Analyse, the project was first conceived nearly two years ago. NetClean had been helping the Swedish police assign “digital fingerprints” to child abuse content for five years when representatives sat down with Microsoft and law enforcement officials in the US. “We presented the work we had been doing and sat down to try to identify some of the challenges law enforcement has,” he told Wired.co.uk.
It quickly became transparent that all the different levels of law enforcement in the US were not sharing information efficiently enough. The caseload of individual officers was becoming too great as the problem increased. It meant every time a suspect was identified and the data seized, it was being processed, known images identified and a sentence for possession administered.
“They then just leave that material aside and move on to the next case,” Hofmann told Wired.co.uk.
The point of Project Vic is to not only synch up information other agencies might have on that same child abuse content, but to help eliminate which pieces of content are old and which might contain new information, so officers can hone in on what’s pertinent, faster.
“Sharing information had not been done in the past,” said Hofmann. “But by sharing they can actually reduce the amount of time they have to spend looking at the same images, to focus on new images and new material — new unidentified victims. The project will aim to ultimately rescue more victims.”
A global outlook for identifying victims and perpetrators is key, as demonstrated by the recent arrest made by Homeland Security in the US of 14 men operating a child abuse website using Tor which had 27,000 members. That investigation identified 251 victims in 39 US states and five other countries, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Belgium.
The new system is implemented from the moment an investigation begins, when any computers, smartphones or other devices are seized. NetClean Analyse is used to process the data, and any piece of illegal content downloaded or saved is assigned a digital signature that is automatically calculated. These are then uploaded to the database, along with categories and additional information — for instance, if a victim or perpetrator in the image, or their whereabouts, has already been identified. All that data is stored in the cloud — when someone else connects and downloads the data, they can run new images against existing content.
Hofmann explains: “They can bounce fingerprints against this cloud service, and immediately know what’s been seen in the pasts. All different law enforcement agencies across the US and other countries are connected and can push up new fingerprints on a daily basis. And it’s growing fast.
“They can benefit from other work being done all over the country and elsewhere. They also get additional information, like whether the victim or vendor been identified, if the picture comes from a known image series that’s been/being investigated, potentially internationally.”
The cloud aspect of the system is still in the testing phase, and has been for around a year — NetClean and other parties involved (Homeland Security coordinates it with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, with help from others in the industry) want it to be “100 percent” before the roll out, which is due to happen in the next six months.
According to Richard Brown, Law Enforcement Liaison at the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, the system has already helped police “pre-identify” around 85 percent of images seized on a hard drive. “Instead the investigator can concentrate on the remaining 15 percent of images never seen by law enforcement,” Brown tells Wired.co.uk. “Project Vic wants to make sure these images are examined and not just sent to the evidence vault. Each agency in the project has vowed to make a difference and ‘Leave No Child Behind’. This is our motto and we feel with new technologies combined with our new approach we can save a child’s life.”
“It will have a huge impact because of the amount of people involved,” says Hofmann of the roll out. “We’re trying to get other vendors to adopt the protocol and to share information.”
Brown explains that other countries that would like to join Project Vic can do so easily, because it was “built on technology that is very open to connectivity”. He adds: “In the last 18 months more than 80 children have been rescued because of the new focus on the victim centric approach to investigation.”
Microsoft’s Photo DNA and binary hashing techniques are used to match content. However, NetClean is currently looking into a new, robust technology that would be the video equivalent of Photo DNA. The details are currently under wraps, but Hofmann did say: “It will have a massive impact — video is an incredibly huge problem because of the amount of information you have there. It’s very hard for law enforcement to look for all that information: it’s tough on the eyes and takes time. But if you can find a robust system, it will save a lot of work and also mental health.”
What began as a small consortium of interested parties has now expanded to the point where Hofmann says “we can’t even have all the logos on one slide anymore”. Part of Project Vic involves training law enforcement to use the tech, and training those individuals to become trainers themselves — thus the network is rapidly flourishing.
According to Hofmann, it couldn’t have come soon enough.
“It is an increasing problem. The amount of content being produced and shared is growing exponentially. More and more people have smartphones and digital cameras, it’s so easy to share online on a closed network and storing it is really cheap — you can buy terabytes of disk space for no money. Criminals help each other online with how to commit crimes and get around police officers and their methods. So they are definitely becoming more sophisticated. That’s why it’s so important for law enforcement and industry to work together to develop novel technologies.”
The UK government has been piling the pressure on search engines, and in particular Google, to share the burden of tackling the growing problem of child abuse content online. Google already worked with the Internet Watch Foundation to takedown and report identified content, and last year executive chairman Eric Schmidt pledged to do more, including implementing an algorithm tweak that would limit search results for suspected child sexual abuse queries using Microsoft’s PhotoDNA.
Of course, it’s entirely possible those sharing the content would quickly become savvy and use alternate language and references to find material. Nevertheless Hofmann says industry’s role is a vital and growing one. “I do think we’re seeing change at this point in the UK,” he said. “It has to start with law enforcement, which then typically puts more pressure on industry to do something. You can see the change all over the world. Facebook, for instance, is doing tonnes of work in this area.
“It’s such a huge problem, and everyone thinks it’s an important problem we need to combat. We just have to make companies aware.”
Two years after the death of 4 year old Daniel Pelka, children’s services have been rated as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors.
Last year the council promised improvements after being heavily cricised for not spotting the signs of Daniel’s abuse.
The four year old was starved and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather at their home in the City in 2012 and last year the pair were jailed for 30 years.
The lead councillor for children’s services has vowed there will be a “rapid improvement” in services following a disappointing Ofsted inspection.
Councillor George Duggins, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, believes despite the judgement, there are many positives to build on and committed additional resources to ensure services are improved as quickly as possible.
In a statement, the Council has announced that an additional £5.6 million is being invested in the service which will be mainly spent on creating more social work teams to deal with the huge increase of referrals coming through their ‘front door’.