February 2011 | Issue 6 | print friendly version | send to a friend

The Safe Haven updates you every month on safety issues confronting communities, including child abuse, cyberbullying, financial elder abuse, and more. Through awareness and education, we can work together to help the vulnerable—kids, tweens, teens, and elders—stay safe.


Babies Spark Empathy, Combat Bullies

A Toronto-based organization called Roots of Empathy has started a program that arranges monthly elementary school visits by a parent and her baby in order to fight incidences of bullying. Research has shown that exposure to an infant may create a different physiological state in children that aids in social interactions. The students learn strategies to comfort a crying baby and enlist in tasks to take care of the baby, such as singing songs or making a “wishing tree.” In a study of first to third grade classrooms, 88% of those who participated in the Roots program decreased in “proactive aggression” versus 9% of the control group. The findings were also reproduced in fourth to seventh grade students.

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Dad Threatens Bullies on School Bus

A father boarded a school bus and hurled expletives at his daughter’s alleged bullies, threatening to kill them as well as the bus driver for not stepping in to stop her torment. His daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy, had complained to her father about other students throwing condoms at her and hitting her. He was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing school function but defended his actions after being released on bail by saying, “My daughter is not going to be hazed and beat up and touched on like what they’ve done, ok.” Before exiting the bus, he dared everybody to call the police, threatening that his brother is the “damn deputy sheriff.” The school has put his daughter on suicide watch due to the incident.

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Mother Coached Daughter During Fight

A woman from Florida who was filmed encouraging her daughter in a public fistfight with another girl has had her charges reduced from felony child abuse to a misdemeanor count. The woman kept her 16-year-old child home “to train her how to fight.” Her daughter and another girl had gotten into an altercation the day before and agreed to fight via text message. When asked why she didn’t break up the fight, the mother responded that the girls “needed to fight.” She was seen arriving at the location of the fight with “a cigarette and a drink” in her hand.

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MTV’s “16 & Pregnant” Catches Dating Abuse

After an episode of MTV’s reality show “16 & Pregnant” in which a young woman physically attacked her boyfriend after learning that he had cheated on her, MTV ran an information card with a link to a dating abuse website and a message encouraging victims of dating abuse to reach out for help. The immediate reaction on Twitter was that of derision. “She threw ONE punch at him and it automatically became ‘dating violence’ WOW!” This, as well as other tweets, displayed a blatant lack of understanding of dating abuse and a refusal to accept that men can also be victims.

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Off-Duty Police Officer Attempts to Teach Teen a Lesson

An off-duty policeman showed up at the home of a 15-year-old boy and handcuffed him for having sex with the policeman’s 14-year-old stepdaughter. He then went on to lecture the teen, saying that it was “not a good thing that the person you had sex with is a cop’s daughter. The district attorney will probably file charges.” The boy’s stepfather took a video of the entire incident using his cell phone. The officer eventually removed the handcuffs and left. The boy was arrested for unlawful sexual intercourse after the incident was reported to police internal affairs. The parents of the boy contend that they did not give the policeman permission to scare their son and that he abused his power.

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Social Networks Not Making People Less Social

Although the trend in technological hand-wringing is that social networks are making us less social, a new study released today by ExactTarget and CoTweet says quite the opposite. Among people who say that they’re using Facebook more, 27% say they spend time with friends in person more often as well. 13% say that face-to-face time has decreased. Among those using Twitter more often, 46% say that they’re meeting up with friends more often and 7% report having less personal time.

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Five Social Networking for Children

These five sites have tailored the social networking experience for children, deftly sidestepping the known pitfalls of bullying, cyberstalking, and predators through various restrictions. Togetherville allows parents to use their own Facebook account to create a profile for their child. What’s What, another site, requires the parent’s credit card information as well as three pictures of the child. ScuttlePad has a menu of possible comments for pictures, making it nearly impossible to hurt anyone’s feelings. The site giantHello resembles mainstream social networking sites except it’s much stricter. Finally, Skid-e Kids has a staff of human moderators regulating comments, articles and personal information.

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Doctors Trained to Spot Elder Victimization

In an effort to stop elder financial abuse, 24 states joined the “Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program”. The program is designed for doctors and other medical professionals to spot signs of cognitive impairment that might leave certain elders more susceptible to financial manipulation. Once spotted, more than a third of Americans over 71 who have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease will be referred to state securities regulators and adult services professionals.

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Unlicensed Care Facility Charged in Murder

Two women running an unlicensed adult foster care home in Michigan were charged with the murder of a 71-year-old woman who was found dead on the couch, weighing just 64 pounds. The elderly woman had been dead 2-4 hours before 911 was called. One of the women charged has a long history of fraudulent adult foster care. Her license to run such facilities was revoked in 2005 after a state Department of Human Services found numerous cases of residents getting lost, including one in which a resident died after being hit by a car.

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Waitress Sues Strip Club for Discrimination

A 60-year-old waitress at a strip club sued the club for age discrimination and won $60,000 in the settlement. She claims her employers called her “old” and teased her about Alzheimer’s disease and menopause. She was fired at age 56 even though she had been performing her job well and received no disciplinary action, according to the EEOC. The club began hiring younger waitresses and scheduling them in her place. But the seasoned professional was not deterred — she got a job at another adult-themed business with different owners.

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legal lookout

Mom can Consent to Search of Teen's Room

A court found the warrantless search of a teen’s bedroom lawful due to consent from his mother, despite refusal from the teen himself. The police were investigating a burglary in a building and showed up at the teen’s apartment, suspecting the teen’s adult brother to be part of the burglary. The teen stood in the way of the officers, saying “You’re not going to enter the apartment.” However, after his mother told him to “get out of the way,” he moved and the officers searched the room where they found some of the items reportedly stolen in the burglary. Although it is illegal for an adult to consent to searches on behalf of other adults, the court determined that the parent of a minor has the right to consent to a search of the minor’s space.

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Courtney Love Social Media Whirlwind

Grunge-rocker Courtney Love is in the middle of a lawsuit that has major implications in social media law. Love posted a series of disparaging comments on Twitter about fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir with whom she had had a financial falling out. Love accused Simorangkir of participating in criminal activity, which the designer fervently denies. Simorangkir is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for harm that Love’s messages have inflicted upon her reputation and business. If the court finds Love’s statements (and those of Twitter users in general) as a reporting of news rather than opinion, the consequences of posting casually snarky comments could prove to be legally devastating.

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New Jersey Passes Tough Anti-Bullying Laws

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey passed bill A3466, the strictest antibullying statute in the nation. The measure requires training for most public school employees on how to spot bullying and mandates that all districts form "school safety teams" to review complaints. Superintendents must report incidents of bullying to the state Board of Education, which grades schools and districts on their efforts to combat it. Administrators who do not investigate reported incidents of bullying will be disciplined, while students who bully could be suspended or expelled. The bill comes at the heels of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s suicide, spurred by his roommates publicly outing him on the internet via webcam.

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A Shared Responsibility

Shield the Vulnerable is dedicated to raising awareness of abuse and neglect, and providing training and resources to help protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.