Summer 2012 | Issue 13 | print friendly version | send to a friend

The Safe Haven updates you quarterly 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

Be Prepared to Report

Scouts Canada knew of at least 65 previously unreported cases of suspected child sexual abuse, according to a recently released review of hundreds of the Scouts’ confidential sex abuse files. Robert Talach, a child-abuse-victim’s lawyer, reacted by saying he would like to see more teeth in the mandatory reporting laws — which require individuals to report child abuse to the police. “There’s a bigger fine for pirating videos than for not reporting child sexual abuse,” says Talach.

Although the Scouts’ failures to report happened over the course of many years, 13 of the 65 incidents occurred since reporting laws were enacted in 1992. Talach also notes that the Scouts may have “placed the reputation of the organization above the plight of the individual” by handling terminations of abusive leaders at the provincial – not the national – level.

The Scouts say they are taking steps to improve training and screening, but Talach remains critical that the 90-minute online training session the Scouts currently require is not enough to protect children. He also worries that screening can provide a false sense of security: “All police screening says is that a person hasn’t been caught yet … An organization that deals with that many children will in perpetuity, be attracting sex offenders ... you have to be eternally vigilant.”

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Were Doctors Blind to Bleach Abuse?

Washington state health officials are investigating the way doctors handled a case in which a mother allegedly swapped prescription eye-drops for bleach, then repeatedly applied the bleach to her 14-month-old daughter’s eyes.

Dr. Avery Weiss, a specialist in treating eye damage at Seattle Children’s Hospital, observed that the severe eye injuries improved under supervised care, but worsened each time the child was returned to her mother. The doctor suspected child abuse but delayed reporting for close to two months because he “want[ed] incontrovertible evidence.” He made a report the day that the toddler suffered a brain hemorrhage (subdural hematoma) and had to be flown to a trauma center.

The mother is now in jail, her children in protective custody. But the girl will be severely visually impaired for the rest of her life.

Weiss later wrote a medical journal article to warn other ophthalmologists that chronic or unusual eye infections may be a sign of abuse. He admits that he feels guilty, but also says that “we were reluctant to implicate the mother until we were 100 percent sure” – even though the law does not require proof or certainty that abuse has in fact occurred.

Mandatory reporters, including doctors, can go to jail under Washington law for failing to report their suspicions of child abuse at the first opportunity (and always within 48 hours).

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teens

U.S. School Shocks Kids, U.N. Alarmed

Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) , a Massachusetts school for special-needs children, routinely applies electric zappers to children’s bodies as part of a system called “aversive therapy” – and the U.N. is calling for an investigation. The U.N.’s special rapporteur Juan Mendez says the shocks may be “tantamount to torture in violation of international law,” but the school has continued the practice despite a prior U.N. intervention by Mendez’s predecessor.

Local outrage also followed the release of a video showing an 18-year-old boy, restrained face down and screaming for help, being zapped 31 times in 7 hours.

Although JRC claims to only use the therapy when it’s exhausted all other options, a former assistant at the school says he shocked children “for very minor things, like tearing up a paper cup or standing up to give a hug.” JRC founder Israel Matthews stepped down last year after ordering the destruction of video evidence in a case involving a child who was shocked 77 times in 3 hours.

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e-safety

Flirting with Disaster

Skout, an app designed for flirting between adults, is attracting millions of new users each month — as well as financing from one of Silicon Valley's leading venture capital firms, which cited Skout's safety and security protocols as a major reason for its $22 million investment.

After learning that children were using its adult app, the company started a separate service with parental controls for 13- to 17-year-olds. However, the minor app and "creepinator" technology were not enough to keep out child predators, who have been accused of sex crimes against children they met using Skout: a 15-year-old Ohio girl, a 12-year-old California girl, and a 13-year-old Wisconsin boy were sexually assaulted by adult men posing as teenagers on Skout.

Skout's founder calls these cases "a five-alarm fire" and says, "The entire company is re-evaluating everything it's doing."

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Touch Screen Cheating

Stuyvesant High School in New York City—one of the country's most prestigious public schools — admits only 3,300 students after a difficult city-wide test. 

70 Stuyvesant students were implicated when a 16-year-old junior's cell phone was confiscated during a language exam on June 18th.  School officials found a trail of text messages on the cell phone with photos of test pages that were sent to 69 other students. All of the students will have to retake the exams, with the ringleader and four others facing suspension.

A Stuyvesant student who graduated this year said, "There is too much weight put on a couple of numbers to determine your worth as a student and a human being. And the highly competitive nature at Stuyvesant lends a hand in that, but it is really endemic to the system."

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elders

Long-Term Suffering

Michael Wolff's story of managing his mother's decline is (or will be) a grim reality for many adult children of elderly parents. The steep decline of Michael Wolff's mom started when Van Wolff complained that she was short of breath to someone at the assisted-living facility where she lived. Next stop was the emergency room, or what Michael Wolff calls "the land of the elderly."

Following the doctor's advice — "Why not operate and reach for another few good years? What's to lose?" — Michael and his sister agreed to open-heart surgery to repair their 84-year-old mother's heart. What fixed her heart, reduced her to "a terrified creature" and racked up over $250,000 in Medicare costs.

Van Wolff is now 86 years old, cannot walk, talk, or meet her basic needs, and suffers from dementia — and her son suffers from a "crushing sense of guilt for keeping her alive." A year after her eviction from a locked-floor dementia ward for hitting an aide, Van Wolff’s children spend $17,000 a month for their mom's studio apartment near them — "a kind of pre-coffin, if you will" — and around-the-clock caregivers. Her doctor describes her as a "dwindler."

Telling this all-too-familiar story of his elderly mother on "death row," the author ticks off these statistics:

- 70% of those over age 80 have a chronic disability

- By 2050, there will be 19 million Americans over the age of 85

- By 2050, 15 million of the old old will have lost their minds

- The cost of their dementia care will be $1 trillion

He concludes: "Meanwhile, since, like my mother, I can't count on someone putting a pillow over my head, I'll be trying to work out the timing and details of a do-it-yourself exit strategy. As should we all."

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Leering Leads to Elder Abuse

Felony charges against Will Lynch arose from a 2010 incident when Lynch went to the Sacred Heart Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos, California, to see 65-year-old Rev. Jerold Lindner. According to Lynch, he met Lindner in the guest parlor, and asked the priest "Do you know who I am?" After Lindner replied "no," Lynch recalled saying, "You should remember the kids you molested."

Rather than accepting a plea bargain, Will Lynch went to trial and testified in his defense against charges of assault and elder abuse because he wanted to "out" the priest for child sex abuse. Lynch told jurors he wanted Lindner to sign a confession that he had sexually abused Lynch and his younger brother more than 35 years ago on a church camping trip.

Lynch admitted that he punched Lindner when the priest "looked up and leered at me, the same look in his eyes as when he had molested me, when he raped and tortured me." The jury acquitted Lynch of the charges and now he plans to help other victims of clergy sex abuse, and lobby for removing the statute of limitations on bringing lawsuits for child molestation.

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legal lookout

Legislative Updates

Florida

Six-year-old Nikko’s dad told him over the phone to grab a knife from the kitchen and go stab his mom. Nikko’s father, Edward Munao, was sentenced to ten years in jail, but the court of appeal threw out the abuse conviction because words alone were not considered child abuse under existing Florida law, reducing Munao’s prison sentence to five years for a solicitation charge. Effective October 1st, a new law championed by Nikko’s mother Jodi Walsh makes mental abuse a third-degree felony, and re-defines it to include an adult pushing a child to no longer function within a normal range of behavior. Walsh called the law, “a very big step in the right direction to recognize emotional abuse for children.”

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Oregon

A new Oregon law allows law enforcement to subpoena financial and medical records without the victim's (or a caregiver's) consent to speed up investigations, and extends the time in which to file charges of elder abuse to six years. Read more»

“Sandusky” Legislation

About 105 bills on reporting suspected child abuse were introduced in 2012 in 30 states and the District of Columbia, many in response to the sex abuse case against Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. So far, ten states have enacted new laws:

- Florida has the toughest reporting law in the country: failure to report is a felony and universities face up to a $1 million fine and loss of state funding for two years for failing to report

- Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon, W. Virginia, Virginia, and S. Dakota expanded their lists of mandatory reporters

- Indiana and Iowa now require schools to develop policies and reporting procedures for suspected child abuse

- Wisconsin protects employees from retaliation for reporting child abuse, and requires training for school district employees

“The instantaneous and universal outrage … really is different than what you would have had a decade ago, People were instantly saying, 'Why didn't the adults do more?' That assumption is an enormously positive change in our societal understanding of who has responsibility for reporting abuse. So we're learning.”

-Teresa Huizar of the National Children's Alliance

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Adult Courses

Recognize & Report Child Abuse

Recognize & Report Mistreatment of Vulnerable Adults

Recognize & Report Elder Financial Abuse

Volunteer Diversity: Skills for Collaboration

Inquiry v. Investigation

Eliminating Bullying

Cyberspace: Risks and Solutions

Detecting Predators

Sexual Exploitation of Adults

Visiting Vulnerable Adults

Adult Member Comments

“I have a degree in social work and have worked within the social services field, mainly in domestic violence cases, for about 15 years. I have always wondered about the training provided to coaches and I am walking away knowing that they are offered an appropriate training when it comes to working with kids.”

"I liked taking the class on line rather than going to a workshop. The on line course used concrete examples, facts were straight forward and it kept my attention more than listening to someone speak. It was a good course."

“I was surprised at the level of intelligence, clarity and sensitivity of this training. The quiz sections were very helpful in the training.”

"I have been through several trainings on this subject from previous schools and jobs. This one was the best. To the point, lots of good info."

Student Courses

Teen Safety Overview

You're Legal, What Now?

Bullying, Not Cool

Be Safe, Stay Safe

Block the Bully

Cyber Safety

Dating Abuse

Safety Smarts for Kids

Student Member Comments

“I thought it was a great video and I learned a lot from it!”

"I think that this taught me a lot of things about bullying! It helped me SO much!"

“This was a good course for people who are or will get bullied. Good job!”

"Was good to see the real life examples"

"I really enjoyed doing this course because of the real-world example"

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

- Be Prepared to Report
- Were Doctors Blind to Bleach Abuse?

TEENS

- U.S. School Shocks Kids, U.N. Alarmed

e-SAFETY

- Flirting With Disaster
- Touch Screen Cheating

ELDERS

- Long-Term Suffering

- Leering Leads to Elder Abuse

LEGAL LOOKOUT

- Legislative Updates

quiz corner Blog Know the numbers on online sexual predators
  • 8 percent of teens have actually met someone in person who they only knew online.
  • 4 percent of youth Internet users have received distressing sexual solicitations that left them feeling upset or afraid
  • In 73 percent of crimes, youth met the offender and had sexual encounters on multiple occasions

For more facts on online sexual predators, visit the Enough is Enough website:

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