April 2011 | Issue 8 | 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.

kids/tweens

Turning Letters into Action

After reading about the plight of a 14-year old girl named Olivia who was mercilessly bullied for her epilepsy, sisters Emily and Sarah Buder started a letter writing campaign in 2007 that went viral and culminated in thousands of letters being sent in support of Olivia. “I think once you start hearing in the news that kids are killing themselves as a result of bullying whether it’s in person or cyber that deserves government attention,” Sarah said. At the White House Anti-Bullying Summit, President Obama commended the sisters’ action against bullying and declared that "If there's one goal, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up."

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Media Blame Game

In a story that can only be described as nightmarish, an eleven-year-old girl was repeatedly gang-raped by nineteen men over nearly three months. The small East Texas town of Cleveland was placed under the national media spotlight with a New York Times article that was widely criticized for seeming to blame the victim. In response, the newspaper issued an apology along with a more balanced article written by the original reporter and a female colleague. The story came to light when sexually explicit videos began circulating and came to the attention of local school authorities who notified police. The pastor of a church in the tightly-knit neighborhood where most of the defendants live explained how the assaults continued for so long without adult intervention by saying, “You can be awake and see things and still not do anything.”

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Is Your State the Smartest?

The Daily Beast used the NAEP’s standardized test scores to rank each state by how "smart" its students are: Massachusetts ranked first and Mississippi was last. The NAEP tests the reading and math proficiency of 4th and 8th graders. But what do these scores really tell us? The Daily Beast looked at parental income and education, and found that the top five performing states have higher median household income and more adults with a bachelor’s degree. It also found that children who perform better on NAEP tests tend to come from states that have lower levels of childhood poverty. State policies are another factor affecting scores. In Florida, for example, the number of low-performing third graders who are held back increases when they are about to take their first NAEP assessment tests.

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teens

Monkey See, Monkey Do

In the most recent analysis of an issue that has plagued parents for the last 25 years, researchers have found that exposure to risk-glorifying media is associated with increased short– and long-term risk taking. The authors examined research conducted between 1983 and 2009 in the United States and Europe, incorporating more than 80,000 participants who were exposed to media content that glorified activities such as street racing, binge drinking, and unprotected sex . What they found was that active exposure through video games is more likely to prompt dangerous behavior than other passive forms like film or music. “There is indeed a reliable connection between exposure to risk-glorifying media content and risk-taking behaviors, cognitions and emotions,” said a researcher.

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Opposite-Sex Friendships Beneficial for Boys

Canadian researchers claim that early friendships with the opposite sex tend to favor boys more than girls. While children primarily make same-sex friends well into adolescence, young adolescent girls are first to make opposite-sex friends, who are often older males who provide access to drugs and alcohol. Adolescent boys reported obtaining more emotional support from their female friends, whereas girls reported receiving more support from other girls. The study author concluded, “It is possible that having other-sex friends is protective for boys because they gain emotional support and are therefore less likely to engage in problem behavior."

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e-safety

Social Network Envy

Like the all-knowing mirror in Snow White, Facebook stings when it displays people close to us leading seemingly perfect lives. Research by Stanford University found that looking at other’s Facebook profiles consistently led people to overestimate someone else’s happiness and underestimate their unhappiness. After looking at the “witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives” on Facebook, many people felt lonely and discontent. Facebook provides a platform for self-branding. Those who are good at it seem to inspire a sense of jealousy and hopelessness in those who aren't. It may help to remember, as the author points out, that “You will never be as consistently happy as your Facebook friends, because nobody is that happy.”

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Toddling Online

A recent report released by two education non-profit organizations found that four out of five children under the age of five who use the internet do so on at least a weekly basis. The report combined the data from seven studies that revealed young children are increasingly involved in digital media, with television outranking all other forms. Interestingly, time spent with books remains constant even as screen time increases.

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Mother "Conned" Into Making Child Porn

A Maine woman received 20 years in prison for sexually abusing her 2-year-old daughter while videoconferencing with a British man she met on an online dating site. She pled guilty to charges of producing child pornography — four live videos in which she performed sex acts on her youngest daughter, who was chosen because she was the "cutest." The woman claimed that she was "conned" into making the videos by the U.K. man, now 20, who has Asperger's syndrome. The man is banned from working with children for life, and received four years and eight months in jail for "inciting a mother in the U.S. to abuse her own child" and distributing indecent images. The Maine woman’s four children, three daughters and a son, were removed from her custody after her arrest and received counseling. At the mother’s sentencing hearing, the Judge told her that “The most natural response, after revulsion, is protecting the child.”

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elders

Medicare's Viagra Mix-Up

Government investigators recently discovered that Medicare improperly paid more than $3 million for erectile dysfunction drugs for senior citizens in 2007 and 2008, and an undetermined amount in 2009 and 2010. In 2005, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled banned Medicare from covering the drugs. Administrators blamed a software error and said they will try to recover the amounts paid in error to private insurers that administer Medicare’s drug plans.

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Generation Grey Sex

Statistics show a dramatic increase in the rate of STDs in people over 40 due to unprotected sex among single seniors, many of whom meet through internet dating sites. There are more sexually active "silver singletons" now than ever before, and one survey found that singles over 50 are twice as likely as younger lovers to have sex on their first date. Many are from a generation that did not stress the importance of contraception. This lack of education, coupled with the unconcern for accidental pregnancy, has allowed the problem to quickly escalate. Experts are calling for a sexual health campaign to be specifically targeted to this demographic, which they refer to as "Generation Grey Sex."

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legal lookout

California Proposes Elder Abuse Reforms

A bill recently introduced in the California legislature would require mandated reporters (nursing home employees, and social, health, and law enforcement workers ) to inform both an ombudsman and local law enforcement when they suspect elder abuse or neglect. Currently, mandated reporters are only required to report cases to one of the two agencies. Another bill introduced in February, would lower the burden of proof in elder mistreatment cases, which are often prosecuted as civil, not criminal, cases. Attorneys are reluctant to take these cases because they are hard to prove. If this legislation is enacted, instead of having to show "clear and convincing evidence," elder abuse lawsuits would require only a "preponderance of evidence,” in order to recover damages for physical abuse or neglect of an elder.

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Bill Proposes Special Protection for Disabled Students

At a briefing on Capitol Hill on bullying, California representative Jackie Speier announced that she will introduce a bill that would require schools to report incidents of bullying against children with disabilities, like Down syndrome and Aspergers, to the federal government. It would also mandate that federal dollars that promote anti-bullying programs focus partially on that group. The bill is part of a larger government campaign to eradicate bullying both on school campuses and online. Detractors of the bill criticize its exclusivity. "The problem starts when the federal government identifies specific groups that are somehow going to be more protected or identified for protection to the exclusion of other groups," said the associate director of the libertarian Cato Institute. "So the person who’s just a 'nerd' doesn’t get the same level of protection because 'nerds' are not identified as a specific group in federal legislation."

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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.

IN THIS ISSUE

KIDS/TWEENS

- Turning Letters into Action
- Media Blame Game
- Is Your State the Smartest?

TEENS

- Monkey See, Monkey Do

- Opposite-Sex Friendships Beneficial for Boys

e-SAFETY

- Social Network Envy
- Toddling Online
- Mother "Conned" Into Making Child Porn

ELDERS

- Medicare's Viagra Mix-Up

- Generation Grey Sex

LEGAL LOOKOUT

- California Proposes Elder Abuse Reforms
- Special Protection for Disabled Students

quiz corner Know the numbers on social networks in the US
  • 15 percent of bloggers spend 10 or more hours each week blogging
  • 50 percent of its active users log onto Facebook each day
  • 70 percent of Facebook users are outside the United States

To read more facts about social networks, visit the Econsultancy: Digital Marketers United website:

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