How do we prevent or address child sexual abuse?

Views: 237

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

How Good Parents Miss Child Sexual Abuse and 5 Questions to Change That
March 16, 2015 | Posted by: Lauren Book

This blog post was originally published on and republished on Jewish Community Watch.
by Tonya GJ Prince

How do good parents miss child sexual abuse?  It is simple. By not asking the right questions.

One day my son went to a classmate’s home for a Halloween costume party.  When I picked him up a few hours later I could tell by the ear to ear grin on his face that he had a great time. As we were about to leave, I was standing at the door with the child’s father and grandmother.

Both adults were giving me a great report about his behavior.  Parent relieved.  Thank goodness.  No issues. No worries.

But as I drove us home I felt uneasy.  Something was off. Then it hit me.  I swerved into the next parking lot. I had been here before.  Except I was the child.

When parents ask children whether or not they were good in front of children and adults most children feel pressured to say yes. I could recall that when I was being abused by a teen relative my mother would innocently ask me a few questions as we left a relative’s home.

“Did you behave?”  “Did you listen?”  “Were you a good girl?”

1.  What mom didn’t know is that the teen who was living there had threatened me before she had even arrived.   Sometimes he’d even be standing behind her balling up his fists or giving me mean looks.

2.  Asking me those questions, especially in front of a person who was using me for sexual experimentation reinforced in my young mind that I was supposed to do whatever I was told by the person who was watching me while she was gone.

3.  Because I had said, “yes” at the door I didn’t think that I could change my answer later.  To do so would mean that I would have to explain why I “lied” when she asked me earlier.

So in that parking lot I asked the correct questions.  Perhaps you may want to consider asking these questions the next time that your child is in someone else’s care.

I asked my son privately whether or not he enjoyed himself.

How did you spend your time? 

What was your favorite part of the party?

What was the least favorite part?

Did you feel safe? 

Was there anything else that you wanted to share?

Try to remember to make these questions a consistent habit.  Also, it might be helpful to  remind your children that they can always add details about what occurred during while they were away from you.

My mistake that day was a common one for parents.  We think that as long as we ask questions we are on top of things.

Truth is, parents have to ask the right questions, at the right time, under the right circumstances.

The Lauren’s Kids foundation would like to thank for their wonderful article and commitment to protecting children. We would also like to thank the Jewish Community Watch for their support of our Walk In My Shoes campaign to spread awareness about child sexual abuse.

Why We Don’t Keep Secrets In Our House {Child Abuse Prevention}

By on April 23, 2015 in Abuse Prevention & Awareness, Parenting

About a month ago, our family was having dinner with some friends at their house. I walked into the kitchen just as the other mom, while winking at me, handed my son a second cookie and whispered, “shhhh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell your mom.” To my delight {and surprise}, my son exclaimed, “Oooooh, but we don’t keep secrets in our house. We do surprises.” In that moment I thought, he gets it and he’s not afraid to say it, thank goodness.

You see, thanks to an excellent Sexual Abuse Prevention workshop that my husband and I attended, called Parenting Safe Children, we have a “no secrets” rule in our house. We have this rule because secrecy is a key ingredient to the sexual abuse of a child. In fact, sexual predators count on the fact that the child will keep a secret. Sometimes they even test the child by asking him to keep small, innocent secrets first to see if he will keep bigger ones later. So, when we teach our children that we don’t keep secrets, even about small and seemingly harmless things like a cookie, we are also instilling in them that they don’t have to keep big and unsafe secrets, like that of someone touching them inappropriately.

This other mom, the one who asked my son to keep the secret, is a friend of mine and I know that she meant no harm by it at all. Nonetheless, the interaction created a great opportunity for me to share with her about our Body Safety Rules {which we also adapted from the workshop}, one of which is that we don’t keep secrets. I shared with her that we have “surprises” instead of secrets because surprises are something that you keep quiet about temporarily; then you share the surprise and people are happy. But secrets are meant to be kept quiet forever and they’re often to protect something that would make people unhappy.

My friend asked me more about the Body Safety Rules – what they are, why we have them, where we keep them, how I talk about them with my kids – and I began to explain that we have Body Safety Rules in effort to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse, to empower our kids, and to communicate to others that our kids are off limits. I told her that we keep the rules posted front and center in our kitchen; that we went over each rule with our kids when we first made the sign and that we discuss them regularly as situations arise. For example, when I’m trying to get a moment of peace, err go to the bathroom by myself and one of them comes barging in, I remind them that because we’re the bosses of our own bodies, we’re allowed to have privacy when using the toilet. And {for the love} Mommy would like some privacy while going to the bathroom. Or when we go to the pediatrician, I remind them, “no one is allowed to touch your private parts {which we call by their correct name}, but because the doctor is checking to make sure you are healthy, he needs to check your whole body, including your private parts and because Mommy is here, it is ok.” We talk about the Body Safety Rules in the context of different every day situations and we also sometimes play “what if” scenarios, like “what would you do if you were playing at someone’s house and they asked you to take your clothes off?” My kids would likely respond, “I would tell them that we play with our clothes on.”

When a child knows his body safety rules and feels empowered to say no to inappropriate touch and to keeping secrets, it communicates to a potential predator that the child is off limits. And when friends or child care providers see the Body Safety Rules hanging in our kitchen, it’s obvious to them that sexual abuse prevention is on our radar. A conversation is usually quick to follow, sometimes it’s comfortable and other times it’s just plain awkward. But I simply have to ask myself, am I willing to have a moment of awkwardness with someone in order to have my child’s back and keep him safe? The answer is always, without a doubt, Yes.

Child sex doll trial opens Pandora's box of questions about child porn
St. John's trial began in January 2016
by Glenn Payette, CBC News, Feb 12, 2017

This box, which contains an unassembled child sex doll, is at the centre of a trial about child pornography in St. John's. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Warning: This story contains graphic subject matter  

There's a trial going on in Newfoundland that centres on the contents of a long, rectangular box.

What's in it would most likely disgust and infuriate many, but others think it could actually be beneficial to society.

Inside the box is an unassembled child sex doll, shipped from Japan. The doll has not been entered into evidence yet. So far, the only ones to see it are the police, officials with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and an expert who has only seen pictures of it.

    'There is no actual person. It is a piece of latex.'
    - Dr. James Cantor

The package is addressed to St. John's resident Kenneth Harrisson, a 51-year-old electrician now on trial for possessing child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty.

Child porn cases usually include images of kids being sexually exploited. You have actual victims.

But the Harrisson case, which began in St. John's last January and resumes Feb. 14, raises the question of whether an inanimate object constitutes child porn.

Retired RCMP Supt. Bill Malone has not seen the doll but has screened thousands of images of child porn over his 26-year career and believes this object falls into that category.

"When I look at the descriptions of the doll in the paper, in the newspapers, and how it is described and what it's for, and those sorts of things, I am of the opinion, and I'm sure I always will be, that it is child pornography," said Malone.

Toronto-based clinical psychologist Dr. James Cantor disagrees, and, in his opinion, what Harrisson is on trial for does not constitute child porn.

"Actual child pornography is evidence itself of a crime being committed. But that's not the case with a child sex doll," said Cantor. "There is no actual person. It is a piece of latex. So, if there is no victim where is there, exactly, a harm being committed?"

The arrest

St. John's resident Kenneth Harrison is on trial in relation to a child sex doll that he allegedly had mailed to Newfoundland and Labrador from Japan. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

He doesn't have to testify and hasn't done any media interviews, but he did send a brief email to the CBC.

In it, he stated, "I do not condone child abuse in any way, shape or form. Any child abuse should be reported immediately to the proper authorities."

The police got hold of the box after it was flagged by CBSA coming through the International Mail Processing Centre in Toronto in January 2013.

The name of the Japanese company on the box — Harumi Designs Division of SIMA International Inc. — was on a CBSA watch list. The box was opened in Toronto and CBSA contacted the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC).

On March 12, 2013, the RNC performed a "controlled delivery" of the package to Harrisson's home and arrested him when he took possession of it. He never opened it.

According to a statement from the RNC, the box contains "a prepubescent female doll, made of a foam-like consistency, that stands at 130 cm, approximately four-foot-two. It comes with clothes and other optional accessories. Some of those accessories could be and can be used for sexual gratification purposes."

    'Clinically, the majority of these men meet the criteria for the diagnosis of pedophilia.'
    - Dr. Peter Collins

In all, Harrisson is facing four charges. In addition to possessing child porn, he is charged with using the mail for delivering something obscene; violating the Customs Act by smuggling or attempting to smuggle the doll into Canada; and having in his possession an item that violates the Customs Act or any other Act of Parliament that prohibits or controls the importation of goods.

The Canadian Criminal Code's definition of child pornography is broad, but the most relevant section of the code says, "the dominant characteristic … is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years."

Witnesses have told the court the doll has a vaginal opening, and that the package also contains underwear and lubricant.

Opinions divided

To help them determine whether or not the doll is child porn, the RNC sent photos of it to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Peter Collins, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and an expert in this field.
Dr. Peter Collins, Forensic Psychiatrist

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Peter Collins says the doll in question does constitute child pornography. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

In response, Collins wrote: "If [Harrisson] ordered a sex doll ... he likely has an erotic attraction to prepubescent children. Clinically, the majority of these men meet the criteria for the diagnosis of pedophilia."

Collins, who was qualified by the judge in the case to give his expert opinion at Harrisson's trial, wrote, "In my professional opinion, the possession of a sex doll is just another form of depicting a child for a sexual purpose and therefore would meet the criteria for child pornography."

Former Supt. Malone admitted he is "not a physician or a psychologist," but he helped establish the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit with the RNC, which included the Internet Child Exploitation Unit.

He feels strongly that a sex doll is not only child porn but that it could lead to an actual sexual assault on a child.

"I think it is troublesome," he said. "I would worry that the novelty would wear off and they would be out there looking for victims on the street." ...

Flight attendant rescues girl after spotting signs of human trafficking
WITW Staff, 02.06.17

An Alaska Airlines flight attendant thwarted a human trafficking incident after noticing something amiss about a teenage passenger and the older man accompanying her.

Local TV station 10 News reports that Shelia Frederick, 49, became suspicious when she saw that the girl looked “all disheveled and out of sorts.” When Frederick tried to talk to the girl, the male passenger reportedly became defensive and the teenager would not speak.

In a whisper, Frederick told the girl to go to the bathroom. She left a note for her there, and the girl “wrote on the note that she needed help,” Frederick said. She notified the pilots, and police were waiting at the terminal when the flight landed.

Because so many human traffickers move through airports —  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 2,000 traffickers in the last year alone, according to NBC News — flight attendants are being taught to spot the signs of passengers in distress: adults and children who look ashamed, frightened, or drugged; passengers traveling with someone who does not appear to be a relative; passengers who speak for a suspected victim and will not let him or her out of sight.

Airline Ambassadors, a non-profit that works in conjunction with Customs Border Protection, conducts seminars on human trafficking for airport staff, according to NBC. The organization is currently lobbying Congress to make such training obligatory for American flight attendants.

Frederick spotted the hallmark signs of trafficking mentioned above, noting that the young girl and the well-dressed older man seemed mismatched. She also said the girl “looked like she had been through pure hell.” Now Frederick is being hailed as a hero for acting quickly on her honed instincts.

Read the full story at NBC News.

Childhood Trauma Can Destroy Your Health Decades Later
Posted by ROSE on June 29, 2015

Doctor: Childhood Trauma Can Destroy Your Health Decades Later, Yet America Ignores It
Trauma haunts us for the rest of our lives.
By Dr. Nadine Burke Harris / AlterNet, June 25, 2015

The following story is adapted from a TED talk.

In the mid-'90s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente discovered an exposure that dramatically increased the risk for seven out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. In high doses, it affects brain development, the immune system, hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed. Folks who are exposed in very high doses have triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer and a 20-year difference in life expectancy. And yet, doctors today are not trained in routine screening or treatment. Now, the exposure I'm talking about is not a pesticide or a packaging chemical. It's childhood trauma. ...

India rescues children from traffickers exploiting Nepal earthquake aftermath

More than 20 children rescued by Indian authorities from human traffickers targeting families who lost livelihoods in last month’s disaster

A child lines up with her mother in a temporary shelter during food distribution at Tundikhel, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

A child lines up with her mother in a temporary shelter during food distribution at Tundikhel in Kathmandu, Nepal. After the earthquake campaigners warned that girls and young women were vulnerable to human traffickers. Photograph: Hemanta Shrestha/EPA

Authorities in India have rescued more than 20 children from a human trafficking network targeting families who lost their livelihoods in last month’s earthquake in Nepal.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 8,600 people, devastated rural areas, with hundreds of thousands losing their homes and possessions.

In its aftermath, campaigners warned that girls and young women were vulnerable to abduction by traffickers supplying brothels across south Asia. However, the operation in the northern Indian state of Bihar has underlined another problem: traffickers targeting the children of parents who have lost their jobs in the disaster.

“We have rescued 26 children from the clutches of human traffickers in the past 20 days and sent them to rehabilitation centres,” said Sanjeev Kumar, a senior labour official in Bihar’s East Champaran district.

The children’s parents, from poor villages in northern India, had been working as migrant labourers in Nepal and were laid off after the earthquake. As they crossed into India at the Raxaul border post, they were convinced to allow their children, between the ages of eight and 14, to travel with the traffickers, who promised to give them well-paid jobs in comfortable conditions.

The children were in fact being taken to a bag-manufacturing factory in Mumbai, Kumar said. Four traffickers were detained by the police. Two Nepali children were also intercepted.

Though progress has been made in India towards eradicating child labour, the problem remains serious.

Last week 28 child labourers, including eight from Nepal, were rescued from a garment factory in the north-western city of Ludhiana by an NGO. They were being paid around 150 rupees (£1.50) a week to stitch T-shirts. The Nepalese children had come to India around two weeks before the earthquake, local media said.

“Following the Nepal disaster, the fear of children and women falling prey to the human trafficker gangs has increased manifold and so we are keeping a strict vigil along the Indo-Nepal border to prevent such happenings,” Kumar said.

The border between India and Nepal is 1,088 miles (1,751km) long and only lightly patrolled.

The US Department of State describes Nepal’s government as yet to “fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking … [But] making significant efforts to do so”.

Anand Tamang, director of the Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities, a Nepalese group that campaigns against child marriage, told Reuters that last month’s quake would lead to a dramatic increase in child marri....


“We know the situation will be much worse,” he said on the sidelines of an international conference on ending child marriage in Casablanca, Morocco.

YK Gautam, the state coordinator of Action Against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children, an Indian NGO in Bihar, described the situation as very serious. “The Indo-Nepal border at Raxaul has become a vulnerable point in the present situation as just everyone wants to flee Nepal right now. This has increased risks of the fleeing population of quake victims falling into the nets of human trafficking,” Gautam said.

Officials say close to 100,000 Indian nationals have returned from Nepal through the India-Nepal border post at Raxaul since last month’s earthquake.

“A significant per cent of these people is those who were born, grew up and got employment in Nepal. They are very unclear what to do now,” Gautam said.

‘It’s Like the Wild West’: Sexual Assault Victims Struggle in K-12 Schools
For a year, the girl had tried to convey the lingering trauma of a sexual assault to school officials as they investigated her claims.
By Erica L. Green,NY Times, May 11, 2019

WINCHESTER, Va. — Nausea had consumed her as her attacker pinned her arms down at a park, forced her first kiss upon her, and tried to take off her pants at the tender age of 14, and nausea resurfaced every time she saw him in the hallways of her high school.

For a year, the girl had tried to convey the lingering trauma of the attack to disbelieving school officials as they investigated her claims. Then over the summer, they brought her to a conference room at the Winchester Public Schools building to watch a surveillance tape in which she was seen zigzagging in and out of hallways trying to avoid him and seek help. She thought she had made a breakthrough.

Weeks later, the district issued its final report. Among its findings: She could not possibly be in distress because in one segment, she had smiled minutes after she saw her attacker.

“That’s when I realized that instead of investigating my complaint, they were investigating me,” the girl, now 15, said in an interview.

Efforts by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overhaul federal rules on sexual misconduct have focused public attention on college campuses, where assault, rape and harassment have made headlines for years. But her efforts to change those rules, put into place more protections for the accused and offer relief for educational institutions have prompted concerns from elementary and secondary school leaders, public school superintendents and other educators that highlight how schools grapple with sexual misconduct involving much younger students.

The new rules would apply to any elementary and secondary school district that receives government funding, hundreds of which — like Winchester — are already under investigation by the department’s Office for Civil Rights over claims of violating Title IX, the 47-year federal law to prevent sex discrimination in education.

And where universities have procedures and adjudication processes that might need changing to comply with the new rules, elementary and secondary schools have been found to have no rules at all for dealing with sexual misconduct. The Education Department is currently investigating 652 complaints of Title IX violations related to sexual harassment and violence, 279 of which are against K-12 schools.

“It’s like the Wild West,” said Adele P. Kimmel, a senior lawyer at Public Justice, a legal watchdog group. “K-12 schools are light years behind colleges.”

The nation’s 98,000 public elementary and secondary schools educate 50 million children — nearly triple the number of young adults in colleges, universities and other postsecondary education facilities. And K-12 schools — often unaware of their obligations under federal law — have become notorious for failing to recognize and address sexual assault, and employing tactics to intimidate victims and avoid lawsuits.

“Across the country we still sit in the bad old days where K-12 school administrators can convince themselves and persist in the belief that they do not have Title IX responsibility,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under the Obama administration and investigated a sharp rise in Title IX complaints concerning sexual violence in elementary and secondary schools.

Under the Trump administration’s proposed regulations, schools would be expected to recognize complaints under Title IX only where harassment is “severe and pervasive,” and could decline to investigate claims that happen off campus or outside the school’s programming. The rules would no longer explicitly define how schools should address a “hostile environment” for accusers.

The department is processing more than 100,000 comments submitted on the proposed regulations. Among them are those from groups representing K-12 principals, superintendents and school boards, all opposing the rules, which they say could further tie their hands in how they respond to sexual assault complaints from a vulnerable population.

“Title IX compliance is challenging in the K-12 space,” said Sasha Pudelski, the advocacy director at AASA, the School Superintendents Association, “but nothing in these proposed regulations will make those challenges go away.”

Under the proposed rules, the Winchester Public Schools district would not have been obligated to investigate the girl’s complaint at all, since she said the assault happened off campus. The girl’s mother, Danielle Bostick, said that even though the boy pleaded no contest to misdemeanor sexual battery and felony abduction and agreed to a protective order, the school denied the family’s claims of assault and of a hostile environment.

The New York Times does not identify victims of sexual assault; the girl’s mother, who has a different last name, has spoken out about the case.

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

The school devised a plan to minimize contact between Ms. Bostick’s daughter and the accused, but her requests that they have zero contact and that he ultimately be removed from the school were rebuffed. After losing two Title IX appeals, the girl transferred to a private school nearly an hour away. The Virginia state legislature recently passed a bill named after her that would protect students with protective orders in school.

“Every choice those adults made was devastating to her,” said Ms. Bostick, who teaches Latin at the school. “There was nothing we could do, nothing we could show that would make them have compassion for her. The proposed changes would make our nightmare the new standard.”

Jason Van Heukelum, the superintendent for the school district, said its conclusion was based on two exhaustive weekslong investigations that included reviewing nearly 1,300 pages of documents and conducting 17 interviews.

“We go to great lengths to afford our students and staff protections from the violation and the fear of assault and harassment in our schools,” he said.

Though colleges get the attention, it was a K-12 case that spurred the Supreme Court to expand the law to include student-on-student assaults. In 2016, the Obama administration issued guidance to K-12 schools as part of its overhaul of campus rules on sexual assault. The administration had seen a jump in sexual violence complaints in K-12 systems, to 83 in 2016 from 11 in 2009.

Even then, advocates and civil rights officials believed those numbers were grossly underreported, because school districts failed to recognize when children were articulating sexual harassment.

“If you don’t recognize sexual violence, you’re going to perpetuate it,” Ms. Kimmel said.

The Obama administration’s investigations into K-12 systems revealed some of the most egregious violations, Ms. Lhamon said. She said the civil rights office often encountered a “school’s insistence that they didn’t need to have standards because students shouldn’t be having sex.”

The Trump administration is trying to standardize proceedings that align with processes that court rulings have affirmed. And it has continued to aggressively pursue investigations and resolution agreements with K-12 school districts. Last year, the administration withheld millions of dollars in funding from Chicago Public Schools after The Chicago Tribune found that the school system had covered up rampant sexual abuse by students and staff members.

Colleges and universities have fretted that bolstered rights for the accused under Ms. DeVos’s draft rules would force them to set up the equivalent of courtrooms, complete with prosecutors, defense lawyers and cross-examinations.

But advocates say the Education Department should be cautious about how the rules would overhaul procedures in K-12 schools.

In a letter to the department, Public Justice said the proposed rules would “hobble Title IX enforcement, placing a premium on protecting schools from legal liability instead of protecting students from harm,” and cement some of the worst practices already employed in K-12 proceedings. For instance, the proposals call for “a live hearing” during which accusers and accused students would be questioned with the goal of challenging each other’s credibility. Schools could choose to use a higher evidentiary standard than is required in civil court cases. And they would be in violation of the law only if they had done nothing to address the misconduct, or acted with “deliberate indifference,” regardless of the process or outcome.

Public Justice is representing several clients across the country who say that a lack of procedures have led school districts to botch investigations and violate students’ rights under Title IX.

In a lawsuit against Gwinnett County Public Schools in suburban Atlanta, a high school sophomore said she was punished after she reported that she was forced to perform oral sex on a male student. A staff member who helped lead the investigation said, “I don’t know that I’m trained to qualify what is sexual assault,” the suit said. The investigation required her to re-enact the episode. “Why didn’t you bite his penis?” a school resource officer asked her, according to the suit.

During a disciplinary hearing, the girl was cross-examined by the accused student’s lawyer, who had to be told to “tone it down.” A lawyer for the school district also questioned the girl, concluding that he believed the encounter was consensual because she “did not scream louder and louder as this was going on.” Found to have violated the sexual misconduct policy, the girl was suspended — twice.

A county spokeswoman referred to the district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which it argued the school district did not violate Title IX because it investigated and determined the sex was consensual.

In another case, parents are suing the Washington Public Schools in Oklahoma, where they say their middle-school son had been assaulted three times over 18 months by his male peers, who shoved their fingers in his rectum in a classroom and locker room. Administrators called it “horseplay” but admitted they would have called the police if the same action had been done to a girl. When the parents asked the administrators to take action, the principal, who was also the athletic director, asked, “What do you want me to do — hold his hand?”

County officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Jesse Binnall, a lawyer representing an accused student in a Title IX lawsuit against Fairfax County Schools in Virginia, said that there are even fewer due process protections at the K-12 level than in college, but school disciplinary decisions are more consequential for younger students.

“This isn’t something you learn from and move on; this is almost worse than a felony conviction,” he said. “If you’re going to put something on somebody’s record, something that’s going to haunt them for the rest of their lives, you’d better be sure.”

In Mr. Binnall’s suit, an 18-year-old male student says the school district violated his rights when he was suspended after a girl accused him of hitting her buttocks. The suit said the student had little notice to prepare a defense in a disciplinary hearing and was not able to question the accuser or the witnesses. The suit also contends that school officials ignored key evidence, and even though video evidence exonerated him and a witness recanted, they did not waive their decision.

Officials in Fairfax County Schools, which is facing at least one other Title IX lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation. In 2014, the district settled an investigation with the Office for Civil Rights, which required it to improve its Title IX process. A spokesman said the district was complying with its federal agreement and federal laws and was “committed to continually improving our practices related to preventing and responding to sex discrimination within our schools.”

For students like his client, Mr. Binnall said, Ms. DeVos’s new rules could be a step in the right direction. They outline extensive due process requirements that schools should follow, including proper notice to allow students to prepare for hearings, and providing equal opportunity to present witnesses and review evidence.

“It’s not that we have to have full courtroom procedures,” he said. “We need to have procedures in place that make it so that some sort of teenage vendetta doesn’t completely ruin the lives of an innocent student. And that’s what’s really lacking at all levels right now, especially the K-12 level.”
A version of this article appears in print on May 11, 2019, on Page A26 of the New York edition with the headline: A Struggle To Punish Sex Assault In Schools. Order

Number of British paedophiles may be far higher than thought

National Crime Agency chief says new figure is seven times greater than earlier estimate
Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent, The Guardian, 14 May 2019

The number of Britons with a sexual interest in children may be seven times higher than previously thought, the head of the National Crime Agency has said.

Lynne Owens said the revelation came after investigators scoured through sites for paedophiles on the dark web, finding an estimated 144,000 accounts linked to British people.

Estimates previously had put the number of Britons with a sexual interest in children at around 20,000; one unpublished estimate, which law enforcement did not seek to rely on, put the number at 40,000 adults.

It may be that some individuals have more than one account but Owens, speaking at an event in central London on Tuesday, said that in her professional judgment the number of paedophiles was much higher than law enforcement and government had realised.

The NCA director general said: “I draw on two pieces of evidence. The first … is the 850% increase in referrals from industry since 2013. Then the second is this evidence we get from the dark web.”

Some dark web sites require people to prove they have raped a child before they are allowed to enter.

She said that every month measures were taken to make sure 400 children were safe from paedophiles, and 500 people were arrested in connection with a sexual interest in children. “It brings huge demand. We want to get to the place that we can identify who the very dangerous contact offenders are.”

Owens said the NCA and police had not been able to investigate all of the suspects even when the numbers were believed to be much lower, and did not have the resources to analyse all the accounts discovered on the dark web. She is calling for £2.7bn over three years to boost the fight against serious and organised crime.

Owens said preventative programmes warning children of the dangers were now aimed at four- to seven-year-olds whose parents gave them tablet computers, whereas previously they were aimed at those eight years and over.

Speaking as the NCA launched its annual threat assessment, she said technology companies “had to do much more”.

Owens said: “Technology already exists to design out a lot of the preventable offending. Industry must block child abuse images upon detection, and do more to prevent online grooming.

“It must work with us to stop livestreaming of child abuse. It must do more to stop its platforms being used to advertise services, whether that be of people smugglers or to facilitate sexual exploitation.

“There is the need for nothing less than a revolution in the way that technology companies rise to this challenge.”

Peter Wanless from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said technology companies should have a “mandatory” duty of care for children using the internet.

He said: “They need to step up and ensure fundamental child protection is designed into the online world.

“Things that our children come into contact with daily such as food, toys, clothes, are all expected to meet high safety standards that let us know children are safe to use them, and the same must apply to social networks.”

I’m a 37-Year-Old Mom & I Spent Seven Days Online as an 11-Year-Old Girl. Here’s What I Learned.
Sloane Ryan, Medium, Dec 13 2019

Note: This piece contains sexual content and descriptions of child sex abuse that could be disturbing to some readers. The messages, images, and conversations included here are real.

I’m standing in a bathroom with the hem of a pale blue sweatshirt bunched up under my chin as I weave an ace bandage tightly around my ribcage. The mirror serves as a guide as I wrap and wrap again the bandages around my sports bra, binding my chest. I step out of the bathroom and find our team waiting.

“This look OK?”

I get nods in response, and as Avery art directs, I pose my arms and tilt my head towards the camera. Normally, I’m not in clothes meant for a tween girl. Normally, I don’t have glitter polish on my nails and neon hair ties on my wrist. Normally, I’m dressed, I suppose, like your average 37-year-old mom. Jeans. Shirts that cover my midriff. Shoes with reasonable arch support.

Reid snaps a couple of photos of me. She scuttles off with Avery to our make-shift command center — a repurposed dining room now covered in cork boards and maps and papers and computer monitors. Will’s brow furrows as he quickly edits.

With the help of context — clothing, background, hair styling — and the magic of photo manipulation, we’re no longer staring at an image of me, an adult woman with crow’s feet.

I move to the kitchen to give him space. We’re gearing up for the heaviest part of the day, which we know from experience will be fast-paced and emotionally exhausting.

“It’s ready,” Will calls from the command center. A few of us gather around Will’s computer screen and examine.

“Yeah, I buy it,” Brian says. Brian is the CEO of Bark, the company spearheading this project. Bark uses AI to alert parents and schools when children are experiencing issues like cyberbullying, depression, threats of violence — or in this case, targeting by sexual predators. Currently, we’re covering more than 4 million kids, and we analyze 20 million activities a day. I look at Brian studying the computer screen and consider his assessment. I nod and sigh. I buy it, too.

With the help of context — clothing, background, hair styling — and the magic of photo manipulation, we’re no longer staring at an image of me, an adult woman with crow’s feet. We’re staring at a photo of fictitious 11-year-old Bailey, and no matter how many times we do this, the results are still unnerving. Not because we’re creating a child out of thin air, but because we are deliberately putting Bailey in harm’s way to show exactly how pervasive the issue of predation is for Generation Z.

The majority of 11-year-olds are still prepubescent. Menstruation hasn’t started, and they’re generally not yet wearing bras that are categorized by letter-and-number sizes. Their hobbies and interests vary, but largely, they’re not thinking about sexual relationships or sex organs or sex at all.

But their predators are.

“Thanks, I hate it,” I deadpan, quoting a popular phrase on the internet and earning a sympathetic laugh. The mood in the room is always a little bleak, and the jokes trend toward the macabre. Maybe to an outsider, they’d sound crass, but to anyone who’s been working elbow-to-elbow with us, a little gallows humor is necessary to get us through our days.

With the photo ready to go, we all move to the media room where I pair an iPhone to the big-screen TV. We settle into couches and armchairs and Nathan adjusts a camcorder on a tripod pointed right at the TV. Evidence is precious, and we keep cameras rolling to make sure every interaction involving criminal activity has a digital paper trail for our contacts in law enforcement.

Nathan checks the lighting, then the audio. Josh drops a pile of hoodies on the coffee table, and I tell him thanks.

“You ready?” Josh asks me.

“Yeah,” I lie a little. I’m never quite ready.

During the day, we’re all hands on deck. There are calls to be made, photos to be edited, evidence to be cataloged. But at night, it’s me at bat. The work is often — if I’m honest — lonely. Isolating. Devastating. Tonight, we’ll share the burden, and I’m grateful for the company. But I’m still the one in the hot seat.

Less than a year ago, Brian and I sat in a meeting where we wrestled with how exactly to talk to parents about online grooming. Back when Bark was a much smaller team, we encountered a particularly harrowing case of an online predator abusing a girl in middle school. She was only 12 years old, and this man was grooming her through her school email account, coercing her to send videos of herself performing sexual acts. We knew people like him were out there, but it floored us to see how quickly and deftly he was able to manipulate this child.

In 2018 alone, Bark alerted the FBI to 99 child predators. In 2019? That number is more than 300 — and counting. Each of these cases represents a real child experiencing real harm, and our challenge is to help parents and schools understand this new reality. But how do we tell stories without asking families to divulge too much? How do we explain online grooming to a generation who didn’t grow up with this danger? Numbers, though informative, are abstract and easy to gloss over.

I was frustrated by the problem we were facing, tapping my pen on the conference table and thinking out loud. “When parents think about predators,” I suggested to Brian, “they think about someone tossing their kid in a trunk and driving off. They don’t think about the unseen abuse that happens online. In a perfect world, we’d share a conversation from an actual predator, but that feels like traumatizing the victim all over again…”

I trailed off. We had gone in circles on this same concept.

“What if we just set up fake accounts ourselves to demonstrate to parents what can happen online?” Brian asked. I raised both eyebrows at the idea. Waited a beat to see if he was joking. He wasn’t.

That was nine months ago. Since then, we’ve created an entire team focused on the impromptu meeting Brian and I had in that conference room. We’ve formed continuous working relationships with the kinds of government law enforcement agencies that boast three-letter acronyms. We’ve had test runs, new hires, and countless other meetings. We’ve seen arrests and sentencings. We’ve provided testimony in court and invaluable information to investigations.

My own role changed to heading up this new special projects team. And to preserve the integrity of this project, this special projects team works largely behind-the-scenes and out of the limelight. We don’t appear on the company website, and our Twitter profile photos show inanimate objects instead of our actual faces. Brian and I are also the bridge between the team and law enforcement, with regular meetings and status updates, making sure we’re always working within not only their parameters, but those of the prosecuting attorneys. No one wants our hard work to go to waste because of missing evidence or even a hint of entrapment.

Here, now, in this media room, this isn’t our first rodeo. It’s not even our second or third rodeo. Over the past nine months, I’ve been 15-year-old Libby and 16-year-old Kait and 14-year-old Ava. I’ve been a studious sophomore contemplating bangs and a lacrosse player being raised by her aunt and an excitable junior eager for prom.

At this point, we’re seasoned veterans — but this is our first time using a persona this young. Tonight, my chest is tightly bound and my language reads significantly less mature.

Tonight, I am 11-year-old Bailey.

“Here we go,” I say to the room.

“You can do it, Sloane,” Reid says to me, patting my shoulder woodenly, but still assuredly. Reid’s chin is stern and she’s staring intently ahead. An attorney with a background in criminal law, Reid moved to the private sector and joined Bark when we launched this project. With a knowledge of law and a background in dealing with some gnarly crimes, Reid has been a welcome addition to the team. To an outsider, a shoulder pat might seem stiff, but from Reid, it feels like genuine care and support.

Pete — former military, now private security — who is quite literally three times my size, sits in the front living room. Tonight is certainly low risk, but on the days that have felt significantly scarier, he affords us all a little peace of mind.

I upload the photo to Instagram — a generic, innocuous selfie of Bailey with an ear-to-ear smile — and caption it.

v excitedd to see my friends this weekend at carly’s party! Ilysm!! followed by a string of emojis and a #friends hashtag

The photo publishes on Instagram and we wait quietly for something on the big screen to change.

This part never takes long. It’s always unnervingly fast.

At the beginning of the week, on the very first night as Bailey, two new messages came in under a minute after publishing a photo. We sat mouths agape as the numbers pinged up on the screen — 2, 3, 7, 15 messages from adult men over the course of two hours. Half of them could be charged with transfer of obscene content to a minor. That night, I had taken a breather and sat with my head in my hands.

Nine months of this, and we still continue to be stunned by the breadth of cruelty and perversion we see. I imagine this trend will continue tonight.

“Incoming,” Avery says, and we all look up at the TV. The Instagram notifications show that Bailey has three new requests for conversation.

“Hi! I was just wondering how long you’ve been a model for?”

“lol! im not a model,” I type quickly, hitting send.

“No!” he types, full of false incredulity. “You’re lying! If not, you should be a model. You’re so PRETTY.”

@ XXXastrolifer appears to be in his early 40s, but tells Bailey he’s 19. When she tells him she’s only 11, he doesn’t flinch.

The next message is from another man who greets Bailey harmlessly enough.

“Hi! How are you doing tonight?”

“Hi im good hbu”

“I’m doing alright, thank you. You are a very beautiful girl.”

I hear Josh next to me mutter. “Like clockwork.”

“Wow, thank u!”

“It’s true. I love your pictures on here. Does your mom and dad let you have a boyfriend yet?”

Bailey says no, but also, it’s not something they talk about a lot. I poll the parents in the room. They agree. Getting a boyfriend isn’t top of mind for an 11-year-old.

“Maybe I can be your Instagram bf if you would like? Up to you.”

I pause to respond to @ XXXastrolifer. The conversation ends like most of them do — in under five minutes, he sends Bailey a video to show himself masturbating.

“Do you like that? Have you seen one of those before?”

I turn my attention back to @ XXXthisguy66, the would-be Instagram boyfriend. In a matter of minutes, it escalates from “An Instagram boyfriend means we can chat with each other, send selfies back and forth, and just be there for each other” to “Since we are together, are you ready to send sexy pics to each other?”

She’s 11, and doesn’t quite know what he means. He sends a photo of his erect penis, requests a photo of her shirtless, and assures her that he can teach her how to proceed.

“Well, a lot of boyfriends like it when their girlfriend give them a blowjob. Do you know what that means?”

“No I dont.”

“That means you take the dick in your hand and then you put your mouth over it and you suck on it like you would suck on your thumb.”

“I dont get it,” Bailey types back.

“You take my dick. You put it in your mouth, and you suck on it.”

“God,” Reid interjects, and I look at her. “A child’s first sex talk shouldn’t be with a man who wants to rape her.”

I turn back to the screen.

“But why?”

“Some girls like it, but it feels really good to the boy. That’s just what a boy likes. Now what a boy and a girl really like together is if I put my dick in between your legs and push it inside you. That is called sex. Or fucking.”

“Oh. I learned about sex”

“Whenever you get a chance, send me a picture of you without your shirt on, or send me a picture of in between your legs. I would really like that.”

“Like what kind of picture? In between my legs?”

“You know your vagina? Or some people call it a pussy. I would like to see it. Because that’s where my dick goes. But I would like to see your chest too.”

“I dont really have boobs yet,” Bailey replies. She doesn’t. She wears a training bra for the ritual and camaraderie of training-bra-wearing, but she doesn’t really need one. Not yet.

“It’s ok. I’m sure you still look great though. I would still suck on your nipples.”

“I’m not good at taking body pics.”

“It’s ok. Can you send me a picture of you sucking on your finger? That way I can imagine you giving me a blowjob like we talked about earlier. I’ll send you another pic of my dick.”

He does.

I exit the conversation with @ XXXastrolifer to see another nine requests pending. My phone rings loudly through the TV speakers, startling all of us. It’s an incoming Instagram video call from a new would-be abuser.

I make a snap decision to take it, drop my phone, and pull off my sweatshirt to swap it out for one with a hood. The room knows what I’m doing.

“Keep quiet, everyone,” Nathan states the unnecessary. With my hood up and the room dimly lit, I tilt my head to obscure my face and answer the call. Dominique on my left remains poised at the ready. A former costume designer, her skills with wigs and stage makeup are unmatched. Photos of my personas side-by-side don’t even look like they’re related. I’m Latina. I’m part Asian. I’m a blonde. I’m a redhead.

We’re greeted by a man with a British accent, breathing heavily and whispering into the phone.

“Hey. How are you? I want to see you.” He tilts his phone and he’s lying in bed and shirtless. I kick my voice up an octave.

“Ummmm. I’m shy.”

“No, baby, no. Don’t be shy,” he croons, his voice soft and persuasive.

“I can’t fucking take this,” Will says, and walks out of the room, shaking his head.

The rule at Bark is that we can all call a time-out whenever we want. We can step away whenever we need to. We can take a breather; we can schedule a therapy session. We can even rotate off the team.

That includes me, and I’m the (manipulated) face of our personas.

By the end of two-and-a-half hours, I’ve had seven video calls, ignored another two dozen of them, text-chatted with 17 men (some who had messaged her before, gearing back up in hopes for more interaction), and seen the genitalia of 11 of those. I’ve also fielded (and subsequently denied) multiple requests for above-the-waist nudity (in spite of being clear that Bailey’s breasts have not yet developed) and below-the-waist nudity.

The script we see is largely the same.

You’re so pretty.

You should be a model.

I’m older than you.

What would you do if you were here, baby?

Would you touch my dick if you were here?

Have you seen one before, baby?

Baby. They keep calling her baby without an ounce of irony.

Baby, you’re so beautiful.

Talk to me, baby.

I want you to put your mouth on my dick, baby.

Just get on video chat, baby.

Don’t be shy, baby.

Bailey is a child. Libby, Kait, Ava, Alessia, Lena, Isabella. All of my personas are — legally, emotionally, physically, intellectually. They have no agency, no ability to give consent. Perhaps society loves to point fingers and victim blame (What was she wearing??), but the answer is still the same. They’re all children. And like every case of abuse, a child is never at fault.

It’s just about midnight. I stopped doing video calls an hour ago, but my thumbs have been feverishly typing. My hair is pulled back into a ponytail and I’m chugging water like I just ran a half marathon. “The body keeps the score,” as the saying goes, and my body is calling uncle. The back of my t-shirt is damp, my eyes are bleary, my neck aches, and my heart is a little sick.

Over the course of one week, over 52 men reached out to an 11-year-old girl. We sit with that stat as we soberly shut down the TV and the camcorder.

The work — while not necessarily physical — is emotionally taxing. Most of us on the team have kids, some of them the same age as the personas I play. It hits too close to home, but you don’t have to be a parent to be devastated by the predation of society’s most vulnerable.

It’s the end of the night, but every single conversation and photo still needs to be sorted, organized, and packaged to send to our law enforcement contacts. Any instance of child sexual abuse material is sent to NCMEC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I text the law enforcement agent I work with most closely and give him a status update. We all pack up to head home, and frankly, we all look a little bruised. I can’t write this line without sounding completely self-aggrandizing, but the painful truth is that this work is hard and agonizing and very literally keeps us up at night. We could just stop. Pump the brakes. Divert our attention to the company’s day-to-day.

But the simple truth is that we know what’s at stake. The most obvious win — we’re helping identify sexual predators to the authorities and not only bring them to justice, but prevent them from abusing any more children. We’re also educating parents and schools about a nearly unbelievable reality that exists online. And from a technical standpoint, these stomach-turning conversations are training Bark’s artificial intelligence to become even better at monitoring for signs of grooming.

The brutal reality is that a predator doesn’t have to be in the same room, building, or even country to abuse a child.

I think about my kids. About my coworkers’ kids. About my own self decades ago as a young, uncertain, impressionable tween and then teen. I think about how I would have felt as Bailey. How I would have kept the abuses to myself, for fear of being shamed and blamed. How I would have suffered with it secretly and quietly. How I would have been a silent victim. How I don’t want that for any other kid — my own or anyone else’s.

The brutal reality is that a predator doesn’t have to be in the same room, building, or even country to abuse a child. And that’s what they’re doing — subjecting children to psychological and sexual abuse.

Knowing the pervasiveness of predation on the internet isn’t a burden. Not really. It’s a gift. One that helps us turn the tables on abusers. Our work has resulted in arrests of people who have shown the propensity and willingness to harm children. Technology has changed and so too have the methods by which predators find, communicate with, and harm children. If they can use technology to abuse children, we can use the same technology to help stop their crimes.

At home, I’m not Bailey. I’m a 37-year-old mom in wool socks, loading up the dishwasher and helping with homework. One of my kids is learning about sayings, proverbs, and idioms. She reads them out loud out of her notebook. Bite the bullet. Through thick and thin. Kill two birds with one stone.

“Mom,” she looks at me, pencil poised mid-air. “Do you agree that ‘ignorance is bliss’?” I rinse off my hands and dry them with a dishtowel. I look at her jotting down notes. I am a biased parent, but she is a wonder. Full of joy and wit and curiosity, much like I’d imagine Bailey to be.

“No, honey. I don’t agree with that,” I say resolutely, pulling up a chair to sit next to her at the kitchen table. I lean on my elbow and peek at her homework assignment. “Knowledge is a gift.”

I repeat it to myself as I get back up and wipe down the counter. I mean it. And even on the worst days, I mean it.

Disclaimer: Out of an abundance of caution and due to pending criminal investigations, names — including the author’s — and inconsequential details have been edited for privacy and clarity.

Sloane Ryan runs the Special Projects Team at Bark, a tech company committed to child safety. You can email her at

December 17, 2019 note: This piece has received a significant response, and I attempt to address some questions here: 1) FAQS and 2) How Can I Help?

Written by Sloane Ryan
Sloane Ryan runs the Special Projects Team at Bark, a tech company committed to child safety. You can email her at

Reply to Discussion


Violence Prevention List

Click here for violence prevention list

Click on rose


© 2020   Created by ROSE.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service