Abuse victim feared ‘bumping into Orthodox Jewish paedophile’ on the street

By Tim Lamden, 7 March 2014, Ham&High.

A woman who suffered years of sexual abuse as a child feared she could be confronted in the street by her abuser after he launched a bid to be released from jail.

Yehudis Goldsobel, 28, who has waived her right to lifelong anonymity, told the Ham&High she had been left panicked after discovering Menachem Levy, 41, an Orthodox Jew, had appealed against his conviction and three-year prison sentence for sexual abuse.

The father-of-seven, of Princes Park Avenue, Golders Green, was jailed last June for abusing Ms Goldsobel over a six-year period, beginning when she was just 13.

But on Tuesday of last week, Levy, who was a friend of the victim’s Orthodox Jewish family, had his case at the Court of Appeal dismissed by three of the country’s top judges.

Speaking after the verdict, Ms Goldsobel said: “I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for bumping into him in the street. It saddened me to think this weekend I could bump into him in north west London.

“It’s all well and good that I’m an adult standing up now. But I was once a child and he ruined my childhood. We all have free choice to do what we do and he chose to do what he did and he ruined my childhood.”

Lawyers representing Levy, who was convicted of two counts of indecent assault and cleared of one count of rape last year, argued his convictions were “unsafe” because jurors were misdirected by the trial judge and were “pressured” into reaching verdicts.

His barrister, Tania Griffiths QC, also urged judges to reduce his jail term, claiming his sentence had had a “devastating effect” on his family and had resulted in him losing his business.

She told the court Levy has not yet seen his youngest child – born after he was jailed – and would miss the “critical date” of his eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah, unless his sentence was cut.

But judges Lord Justice Fulford, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Judge David Griffith-Jones QC, dismissed the appeal, insisting the convictions were safe and Levy’s sentence was appropriate, in light of the grave crimes he committed.

Ms Goldsobel said: “When I read the appeal it was about how he hasn’t met his two-month-old baby and how his family don’t deserve this.

“Of course I feel sympathetic to them because they didn’t do anything wrong either. When he did what he did he didn’t just ruin my life, he ruined his family’s life.”

Ms Goldsobel, who started charity Migdal Emunah two years ago, offering therapy and advice sessions for victims of childhood abuse, is now campaigning to make changes to the criminal justice system following her experience of the appeal system.

“All the people in the courtroom [in the original trial] were so particular to make sure it didn’t come to this,” she said. “Obviously there was some way for them to create an appeal which drags the victim back in. The fact that he can go through two trials and then an appeal means the whole thing went too far.

“The fact that any perpetrator can do that is dragging their victim back into their mess and that, for me, is heartbreaking.

“But that’s how this country works. It’s a criminal justice system, not a victim justice system.”

For more information about Ms Goldsobel’s charity, visit www.migdalemunah.com.


Sex abuse arrest at Jewish school

By Simon Rocker, Jewish Chronicle, 27 February 2014

Police investigating allegations of sexual abuse of pupils at Carmel College, the now closed Jewish public school, have made an arrest, the JC has learned.

Thames Valley Police said that a 76-year-old man from Essex had been arrested and had been released on bail until March 24 this year.

Last March, Thames Valley confirmed that it had launched an investigation into claims of sexual abuse of students by at least two former members of staff at the Orthodox boarding school at Wallingford outside Oxford between the 1970s and 1990s.

Opened in 1948, Carmel taught 350 pupils in its heyday in the 1970s. By the time of its closure, student numbers had dropped below 200 at the “Jewish Eton”, whose annual fees at £14,000 made it one of the UK’s most expensive schools.

Ignorance of child sex abuse enables revictimization

Nov. 26, 2011

It is incomprehensible to think that someone such as Jerry Sandusky, former football defensive coordinator at Penn State University, would rape a 10-year-old boy in a campus locker room shower, as authorities have alleged.

More disturbing is how many bystanders reportedly “knew,” and how long authorities say that Sandusky was able to continue victimizing young boys. The betrayal that the youths experienced in that victimization, and what they continue to experience since it has been revealed, is deplorable.

It is rare to have a non-offending witness to most child sexual abuse incidents. How could anyone watch a rape in progress, and not step in to stop it? Why would a legendary coach such as Joe Paterno not demand the administration report the rape? Why would students riot about the firing of Paterno, knowing that he did nothing when university administrators looked the other way? Ignorance.

If we want to prevent future victimization of children, and if we truly want to support victims of child sexual abuse instead of revictimizing them with thoughtless behavior, we have to understand it.

Offenders are not the creepy stranger in the trenchcoat we normally think of. They are usually someone the child knows, trusts and loves, and can be an upstanding member of the community. Offenders put themselves in situations where they have access to children and work to gain trust from the child and the parents. Offenders “choose” their victims: Who can be controlled? Who yearns for adult attention? Who may be at risk or have behavioral problems? Because who is going to believe a troubled child over the adult if they do tell?

The offender grooms the child, plays wrestling or touching games to break down resistance to touch, showers them with gifts and kindness. When sex abuse allegations are made, people who know the offender just can’t believe it. The person they know would never be capable of that kind of action, and the offender uses that equity, sadly, to gain belief over the child.

Perversely, bystanders may ignore the victimization because of the offender’s good reputation, or because the child had a troubled history; they may rationalize that because the act didn’t “physically” hurt the child, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that child sexual abuse has a devastating, long-term impact. It changes the way the child views the world, and more importantly, how they view themselves. It makes them feel dirty and worthless, setting up a life of low self-esteem, relationship problems, anger issues and self-destructive behaviors such as cutting, addiction and promiscuity if not treated.

Statistics indicate one in four girls and one in seven boys will become victims of child sexual abuse, and these are only reported numbers. Believe the child. They rarely lie about child sex abuse, but sex offenders are expert liars.

Abused children often exhibit symptoms; changes in behavior, anger, nightmares, self-abuse, depression, drop in grades, perfectionism, regressive behaviors, bedwetting (know the symptoms; check our website for a list).

Pedophiles rarely have only one victim; they can have hundreds if not stopped. Tennessee law states anyone who suspects child sexual abuse is mandated to report, and the person with the direct information must make the report, not their supervisor. Let’s strive to be appropriate bystanders who will report suspected abuse and not revictimize the victims with ignorant words and actions.

Verna Wyatt is executive director of You Have the Power.


Alhambra High School administrator resigns amid sex abuse case

January 19, 2014

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (KABC) — A woman has accused her former teacher of sexual abuse. The victim taped a phone call, where she appears to confront her alleged female abuser.

The video has received more than 25,000 views since it was posted on YouTube Friday. It has also led to an Alhambra High School administrator’s resignation and triggered a police investigation.

“I recently found out where a former teacher of mine has been working,” the woman says in the video, “and before I was thinking of reporting her for the abuse that she had done to me, since I was 12 years old.”

A link to the YouTube video was sent to the Alhambra School District on Friday. In the video, a woman in her late 20s claims she was sexually abused for years, beginning at the age of 12, by a then middle school teacher in Riverside.

The woman in the video then calls her alleged female abuser, who she claims until Friday was an administrator at Alhambra High School.

During that call, she confronts the woman about the alleged sexual abuse, saying her life and her childhood were ruined.

“Do you realize that you brainwashed me and you manipulated me and that what you did was wrong?” the woman asks her alleged female abuser. “Yes, and I regret it,” the alleged female abuser replies.

The woman on the other end of the line admits what she did was wrong, expresses regret, and admits she is ashamed and disgusted with herself. “You sicken me, and every day when I think about what you did, you sicken me,” the victim says. “You should be so ashamed and so disgusted with yourself.”

“I am, I am,” the alleged female abuser replies.

Eyewitness News normally conceals the identities of alleged victims of abuse, but the woman has acknowledged through comments on her YouTube page that she is aware of the attention the video is getting. In the comment, she said she is glad she went public with her situation.

“I don’t even know where to begin. I am so grateful to all of you for making this video go viral. Because of all of you who shared she will not be getting away with these things that she has done to me or anyone else.”

The woman on the video names her alleged abuser. Eyewitness News, however, has not been able to independently confirm the name.

The alleged female abuser resigned after being interviewed by the district over the video, but currently faces no charges. She has not been identified by police or the Alhambra Unified School District.

The district says it was alerted to the video on Friday. They prepared the following memo to send to students and staff: “The Alhambra High School administration contacted the Alhambra Police Department immediately upon discovering the link. The matter was handed over to the Alhambra Police Department who immediately began their investigation.”

The Alhambra School District says no students at Alhambra High School have come forward with allegations against this administrator. Alhambra police have now passed this investigation on to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

For video: http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news%2Flocal%2Flos_angeles&id=9400191

Civil suit filed by victim of Nechemya Weberman, Satmar spiritual adviser convicted of sexual abuse

7th January 2014

A year after a spiritual adviser in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community was convicted of sex abuse at trial, the young woman he molested is taking him to court again.

The teenage victim of Nechemya Weberman is suing her imprisoned former tormentor for emotional distress. Her civil suit, filed last month in Brooklyn Supreme Court, requests unspecified damages, and also names as a defendant the United Talmudic Academy, the yeshiva in Williamsburg where educators referred her to Weberman for violations of personal conduct standards.

During Weberman’s headline-making criminal trial in 2012, the victim testified for four days about how the spiritual adviser forced himself on her and made her reenact porn-movie scenes during disturbing counseling sessions that began when she was just 12 years-old.

The abuse spanned a period of about three years between 2007 and 2010.

The victim, who is now 19 and enrolled in college, “will continue to suffer depression, anxiety, emotional distress, anguish and ridicule, embarrassment, humiliation and degradation,” according to papers filed in connection with her civil suit.

The Daily News could not reach the victim for comment, and is withholding her name due to the nature of the abuse she suffered.

“This is a minor … who was sexually assaulted over an extended period of time by an older person in a position of authority,” her lawyer, Mitchell Aaron, told The News on Tuesday.

Weberman began molesting the girl when she was just 12 years-old.

The yeshiva she had attended required her to receive spiritual guidance from him in order to remain at the school. At the conclusion of the criminal trial, Weberman, 55, was found guilty in December 2012 of all 59 counts lodged against him. He is currently serving a 50-year sentence in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate Ulster County.

Weberman’s lawyer, Michael Cibella, said his client maintains his innocence and will file his appeal in coming months. Cibella said he expects the civil suit will be put on hold until after the appeal process is over, he added. “We obviously deny the allegations in the complaint,” Cibella said.

The victim’s lawyer said Weberman’s conviction in the criminal trial makes their civil claim easier to prove. On the other hand, Aaron added, the inmate has little to no financial resources. That’s one of the reasons why the suit was filed against the yeshiva , he said. “We think we’ll be able to prove that the school put this in motion then stood by and did nothing,” Aaron said. “They had responsibility, we believe, to oversee what was going on when she was meeting with him.”

The victim had testified at trial that she was sent to the unlicensed Satmar therapist after she had gotten in trouble at the yeshiva for not complying with its strict modesty rules, such as the requirement that students wear extra-thick stockings. She was mandated to continue receiving spiritual guidance from Weberman as a condition to remain enrolled in the school.

An administrator at the yeshiva declined to comment on the civil suit when contacted by The News on Tuesday.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/victim-nechemya-weberman-files-civil-suit-article-1.1569142#ixzz2pnUbF9nT

Sex Offences Sentencing Overhaul

By The Evening Standard, Thursday 12th December 2013

Previous “good character” may be considered as an aggravating factor when it has been used to commit a sexual offence, new guidelines drawn up by the Sentencing Council said.

In practice, this means in the future the likes of disgraced It’s A Knockout presenter Stuart Hall, who used his fame to commit crimes against women and children, could receive more severe sentences.

Covering more than 50 offences including rape, child sex offences and trafficking, the official guidance places more emphasis on the long-term and psychological impact on victims than the previous 2004 guidelines it will replace next year.

The new guidelines also bring in higher starting points for sentences for some offences, such as rape, which the new guideline now allows a starting point of 15 years for top category sentences.

“Across the justice system, changes have been made to ensure that the alleged offenders’ behaviour and the context and circumstances of the incident are scrutinised, rather than the credibility of the victim,” Chief Constable David Whatton, national policing lead for violence and public protection, said.

Other significant changes include the removal of “ostensible consent” from the guidance, that is, the idea that a child over 13 can agree to sex, while greater emphasis will be placed on grooming by individuals and gangs.

Although work on the new guidelines started a number of years ago, it comes after a series of high- profile sex offence cases, which have had an impact on attitudes towards sex crimes.

Revelations about disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile saw high numbers of sex attack victims come forward, while cases involving grooming gangs in Rochdale and Oxford raised questions about social care and attitudes to victims.

Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy said: “This guideline will make real changes to the way offenders are sentenced for these very serious, sensitive and complex offences.

“It will help judges and magistrates sentence in a way which protects our communities from this kind of offending and the suffering it causes.

Lord Justice Treacy said the new approach would bring about sentences that reflected what the victim had been through and take in a full profile of what the offender had done, such as grooming victims or abusing trust.

“No-one wants more people falling victim to offenders who come before the courts, and public protection is central to this guideline, whether this is by jailing offenders or, where appropriate, imposing a rigorous treatment order and other restrictions to prevent reoffending,” he said.

The new guidance also takes into account the increased use of technology in sex offending since the previous guidelines were issued.

In many of the offences, a new aggravating factor is “recording the crime”, as filming and photographing victims has become more common.

Due to the growth in online offending, the Council has included offending committed remotely, such as via a webcam, when dealing with offences like sexual activity with a child.

Judges will also have to take into account aspects such as offenders lying about their age, grooming via social media or asking children to share indecent photos of themselves.

The guidelines, which will come into effect next April, are the largest most complex produced by the council and were drawn up after a consultation with victims groups, judges, magistrates, lawyers, the police, NGOs, the Government, academics, medical practitioners and the wider public.

While the Sentencing Council can recommend a starting point, offenders can still only receive the maximum sentence available at the time the offence was committed.

Barnardo’s deputy director of strategy Alison Worsley said: “It is difficult to imagine the torment experienced by the vulnerable victims of crimes such as these.

“The publication of this new sentencing guideline will help to ensure the focus is on the perpetrator and not the victim.

“As the guideline emphasises, it is plain wrong to imply in any way that the experiences of sexually-exploited children are something they bring on themselves.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “There are often long waiting lists for sex offence treatment programmes in prisons and, despite a recognition by the Sentencing Council of internet-based offending, there are currently no treatment programmes which address this in prison.

“This poses a significant challenge to indeterminate sentenced prisoners who have to satisfy the Parole Board that they are no longer a risk.

“Supportive services in the community such as CirclesUK provide an important contribution to rehabilitation, enabling people to take greater responsibility and reducing their level of risk.”

Victims’ commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove, whose husband Garry was killed by a gang vandalising his car, said: ” These guidelines highlight how vital it is for the court to fully consider the physical and emotional trauma that a victim goes through before making a decision. ”

Carolyn Hodrien, lead on rape and sexual offences for independent charity Victim Support, said welcomed the greater focus the guidelines placed on the impact on the victim.

“It takes real courage for a victim to report these horrific crimes and it is vital they know that the criminal justice system will focus on the credibility of their evidence and the long-term impact the crime has had on them, not their perceived vulnerabilities.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is important that sentencing reflects the severe damage caused by highly manipulative and devious sex offenders, who may use positions of trust or celebrity status to target children.

“Increasingly technology is playing a part in the way offenders seek out and groom children, who may attempt suicide or self-harm as a result of their abuse. It is right that the guidelines reflect the harm caused and the people who cause this misery feel the full weight of the law.

“The outdated view that children can in some way be complicit in their abuse must be stamped out. The new guidance is a step in the right direction towards addressing this terrible myth.”

Lord Justice Treacy said it was “coincidental” that the Hall and Savile cases emerged while the guidance was already being worked on.

He acknowledged that “perhaps we should have” been quicker to recognise that children in sex cases should always be treated as victims rather than being involved in contributing to the crime.

The judge told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are sending out a very strong message that the focus is on what the offender did and what his motivation was and that the child victim should not be treated as contributing to the offence.”


Can Science Spot a Pedophile? Research Zeroes In On Brain Abnormalities

By Eliza Shapiro, 19th October, 2012

As the Catholic Church, college football, and now the Boy Scouts reel from sex-abuse scandals, new studies suggest the urge to prey on children may come from how a brain is wired.

New research suggests that pedophiles can be identified before the mental illness turns into a crime, potentially keeping many children out of harm’s way. The analysis comes at a crucial moment, amid a wave of pedophilia cases dominating headlines, from Jerry Sandusky’s sentencing to allegations of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Identifying pedophilia through MRIs and IQ studies may seem like quack science, but many experts say it is a mental illness and, just like clinical depression or bipolar disorder, can be treated—and maybe one day cured.

At least five studies conducted in the past two years have dealt with various abnormalities detected in pedophiles’ brains.

Research has varied, from discerning irregularities in the frontal lobe to observing brain activity as pedophiles viewed images of naked children.

Pedophiles appear to have significantly less white matter—a substance that connects different parts of the brain—than nonpedophiles, according to research conducted by James Cantor, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Cantor is working with new types of MRI scans known as diffusion tensor imaging to get a better sense of what he calls “the literal crosswiring of the brain” commonly found in pedophiles.

Cantor has said that a lack of connection between separate parts of the brain could mean that pedophiles have serious trouble differentiating between sexual objects. His research has also found that pedophiles generally have lower IQs than people with sexual interest in adults, and that pedophiles are also disproportionately left-handed compared to the overall population.

One cause of pedophilia may be a biological problem that some are simply born with, Cantor says. “Whatever chain of events leads to pedophilia, the first link in that chain seems to be before birth,” he told The Daily Beast.

“We don’t have a smoking gun” to say definitively how pedophilia develops, Cantor says, but it could form from “maternal stress while the mother is still pregnant, or a combination of maternal stress or poor nutrition, or household stress during childhood. If we take out one of those ingredients, we may break the chain and understand the whole system that ends in pedophilia.”

The search for a cause has intensified in recent years, as much of the most recent research has focused on medical treatments for pedophilic urges.

Medications such as Depo-Provera—which is commonly prescribed for prostate cancer—lower testosterone and libido levels and are being tested as effective “chemical-castration” treatments, and some say cures, to pedophilia. Those who seek help are also often treated with talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to the medicinal route.But not everyone is convinced that stopping pedophilia is as simple as taking a pill or reading an MRI.

“Whatever chain of events leads to pedophilia, the first link in that chain seems to be before birth,” Cantor told The Daily Beast.

“We’re looking for a machine that goes ‘bing,’” says Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at California’s Santa Clara University who has done extensive research on child abuse within the Catholic Church. Instead of finding a “magic pharmaceutical that will make a certain part of the brain not light up,” Plante says, “we need a more integrated perspective if we want to keep kids safe.

”Treating pedophilia is particularly difficult, he argues, because many of the sex offenders that authorities consider pedophiles are “not pedophiles at all.” Instead of targeting children specifically, offenders will “target teenagers or they are situational generalists who target anyone they can get,” Plante says.

He adds that many pedophiles and sex offenders “have more than one diagnosis. They may have substance-abuse disorders, impulse-control disorders, or personality disorders.” Finding a solution to that potentially combustible combination of diseases “is more complicated than it appears,” Plante says.

Plante says the new policies and procedures in place at institutions that have been nearly destroyed by sexual deviance—the Catholic Church and even the Boy Scouts—should serve as a model for child-focused organizations trying to prevent sexual abuse. He says pedophilia can be considered a public-health issue that requires a hybrid of biological, psychological, and social treatments rather than a criminal predilection or a disease easily treated with a pill.

He says the next step in preventing pedophilia will be to focus on kids in youth sports, public schools, and organizations where children are left unsupervised. Plante says, “kids in the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church, and in college football will be the safest kids on the planet”—but it’s children everywhere else that remain at risk.


Pope Francis approves expert panel to fight clerical sex abuse

By Lizzy Davies, Thursday, 5 December 2013, theguardian.com.

Pope Francis has given the go-ahead to a commission of experts that will advise him on new measures to try to fight clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic church and boost the provision of pastoral care for victims.

In his first major move on the scandal that clouded his predecessor’s time in office, the pope told his council of cardinalson Thursday that he was approving their proposal for a new panel devoted to the issue, said the archbishop of Boston, cardinal Seán O’Malley.

“Up until now there’s been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral response of the church is very important and the holy father is concerned about that,” O’Malley told journalists .

“And so we feel as though having the advantage of a commission of experts that will be able to study some of these issues and bring concrete recommendations for the holy father and for the Holy See will be very important.

“The commission was a suggestion of the council of cardinals, the “papal G8” which itself was established by Francis earlier this year to bring together eight international prelates to advise him on church governance around the world and reform of the Vatican’s central bureaucracy, the Curia.

O’Malley – the American cardinal in the group, which has been holding its second three-day meeting this week – said the panel would examine child-protection programmes already in place as well as suggesting new initiatives.

Subjects likely to be explored included the training of clergy and anyone involved with the church working with children, he said, as well as the screening of priests and codes of professional conduct.

The experts might also look at the church’s co-operation with the civil authorities in countries concerned in terms of the reporting of alleged crimes, and pastoral support for victims, their families and communities affected by the abuse of minors, he said.

Those experts have not yet been appointed, but are expected to be a mixture of men and women from both the church and secular sphere.

However, O’Malley was not able to say whether the commission would also examine the issue of bishops’ accountability in clergy abuse cases, which has been – and still is – a focal point of criticism.

Organisations representing abuse victims have said the church has not done enough to sanction bishops who are found to have somehow protected or failed to report to police abusive priests in their diocese.

“That’s something the church needs to address,” said O’Malley, asked about the commission’s remit.

He said he did not know whether the question would fall to the new panel, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the Vatican department that co-ordinates church trials for clergy accused of child abuse – or the congregation for bishops, another section of the Curia.

The announcement of the new commission comes a day after the Vatican was criticised in some quarters for refusing to provide the United Nations’ committee on the rights of the child with all the information it had requested on clerical sex abuse cases and their subsequent investigation.

In its response to the committee, which is due to question a Vatican delegation in a public hearing in January as part of routine progress monitoring, the Holy See said it was not its “practice … to disclose information” on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

In the 24-page document, the Holy See said it had been “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and regretted the involvement of some members of the Catholic clergy.

It added that it had “amended norms” regarding the suitability of candidates for the priesthood, and had taken other steps including the revision of some canon law rules “to ensure that clerics and religious are properly disciplined”.

It also emphasised its limited scope of jurisdiction, and the fact that, under church guidelines, the “primary obligations” of ensuring child protection and providing an “appropriate response” to clergy sex abuse lay with diocesan bishops in the area concerned.

O’Malley said the decision to form the commission had come independently from the UN response.

He said there was no doubt the chief responsibility for action lay with local bishops, but added: “Certainly we hope that the Holy See will be able to model what those best practices are as a way of helping other dioceses and bishops to have a response that is truly adequate and pastoral to this problem.

“Snap, the main US victims’ group, dismissed the initiative and said the only thing that would protect children was if the church punished negligent bishops and ordered them to name molesters.


Dispelling myths around sexual abuse – rapists don’t look like Jimmy Savile and victims are never to blame, according to charity

19th November 2013

A NORTH-EAST charity is calling for more to be done to dispel myths around sexual and domestic abuse ahead of the international Eliminate Violence Against Women Day on Monday November 25.

Figures from 2010 showed more than 160,000 women living in the North-East have experienced domestic abuse and almost 150,000 have suffered sexual assault.

Since then, The Centre – a rape and sexual abuse counselling centre covering Darlington and County Durham – has seen demand increase by 100 per cent.

Despite this, many cases of rape and sexual abuse still go unreported.

The Centre’s CEO spoke out today in a bid to dispel myths and encourage victims to access the support they deserve.

There are many complex reasons victims do not report their experiences, according to Lynne Hinde. For example, whilst high-profile cases like the one involving Jimmy Savile have led to more victims seeking help, they have also worked to perpetuate damaging myths.

Ms Hinde said: “Although they help to create a climate where people feel safer coming forward, they create an archetypical abuser and suggest an abuser looks like Jimmy Savile, that there’s always been something strange about them.

“In fact, people are most at risk from people they know and trust.”

A victim-blaming culture is also problematic.

Ms Hinde said: “Most of the myths are about blaming victims and telling them they’re in some way responsible for what happened.

“There’s a strong belief that if someone dresses a particular way she’s sexually available but women are entitled to wear anything without being blamed if something happens.

“There are also issues around alcohol consumption. Having a drink doesn’t mean you’re then available for sex.

“If a woman is assaulted when drunk, there’s a chance she might not seek help because she may feel she’s to blame.

“These things also create the unrealistic expectation that if you behave in a certain way and don’t do certain things, then you’ll be safe but that’s not the case.”

She added: “It’s important for victims to realise there’s support out there and we’re not here to judge.

“The message has to be really clear. The victim is not to blame for what happens to them.”

The Centre offers free, confidential and non-judgemental support for women over-13. To contact them, call 01325 369933 or visit rsacc-thecentre.org.uk.


6 Ways to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

30th October 2013

Sexual abuse. This is not a topic that most people like even thinking about, much less talking about. It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. To put this in perspective, it means in a classroom of 25 High School Seniors, 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys will have likely been sexually abused. And sadly, black children are almost twice as likely to be abused sexually than children of other races.

People who experience such abuse are at higher risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicide attempts and difficulties in romantic relationships. But there are things that you can do that will hopefully lower the risk of your child, and other children you know, becoming victims of this crime.

1. Refer to your child’s body parts by their correct anatomical terms.

Penis. Vagina. Vulva. Testicles. Hearing these words makes many people uncomfortable, and even more so when coming out of a young child’s mouth. However, giving your child the proper knowledge about their body parts makes people who sexually abuse children uncomfortable too. By using the scientific terms, it becomes clear to a potential abuser that your child is knowledgeable about his body, and could report any inappropriate touching using the correct terms.

Additionally, if you consistently refer to these body parts correctly, and one day your child comes home calling his penis a ding dong, that becomes a signal to you that someone else has been talking with your child about his private parts. This gives you an excellent opportunity to further explore the circumstances surrounding such a conversation.

So get over whatever hangups you might have about that area down there, and start using the words from your old Health Sciences textbook. Penis penis penis. Vagina vagina vagina. See? It’s not so hard.

2. Always allow your child to choose when to show affection–Never force him to be affectionate towards anyone.

“Gimme a kiss.”

“Go give Auntie some sugar.”

“Hug your brother and tell him you’re sorry.”

How many times have you heard young children being instructed to display affection towards another person, even when it is clear they don’t want to? This is something that so many parents do, in the interest of raising polite and friendly kids. But another message that comes across when you force a child to kiss or hug is this one: “Your feelings are not important, and it is okay to have your physical boundaries violated in order to serve another person’s needs.”

Instead you can try:

“Can I have a kiss?”

“Would you like to give Grandma a hug goodbye?”

If the child feels like it, great. If not, that’s fine too. You can always tell the other person “Oh not today, maybe next time.” Or maybe not–it’s really up to your kid. Using phrases like these show your child that he is in control, and he is always free to say yes or no. Also remember that fist bumps, high fives, blowing kisses, etc. are all great ways to show fondness for other people that involve much less personal space.

If you encounter resistance from others in your life around this: Just explain to them why you’re doing it. Anyone that truly cares about your child should applaud and support your efforts to help keep him safe. If they don’t, it would probably be worth it to look at how else that person violates your boundaries in the relationship.

3. Stop telling your child to, “Be good.”

Of course we all want children that follow the rules. However, when we say things like “Be good,” we can sometimes send the message that being obedient is something that we value over all other things. People who sexually abuse children are looking for young people that are compliant and don’t question authority. So when you drop your child off at school, try saying “Learn lots.” Or at a sleepover, “Have a great time.” When my friends would go out for a night of partying in college, the mantra was, “Have fun. Be safe.” These are small ways to consistently reinforce the message that as your child’s parent, you will support him in not being good, if that means trusting his instincts in uncomfortable situations.

4. Let your child know that he can always come to talk to you about ANYTHING.

It is important to keep the lines of communication open with our children. If we don’t listen to the small things, they are not going to come to us about the big things. One way we can foster that communication is by asking our children open-ended questions. An open ended question is a question that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no”

So instead of: “Did you have fun at school today?” try “How was school?”

When they answer try saying, “Oh really? Tell me more.” Or something similar–just whatever feels natural and is going to keep your child talking.

Another part of open communication is being available to answer questions, even those questions that might make us uncomfortable. So if your child asks you out of the blue about sex or drugs or the new health care law or whatever, don’t shut the conversation down. Just answer their questions as best you can in an age-appropriate way, and do what you can to keep the conversation going. If your child asks you a question that catches you off guard, don’t just answer it–try to figure out what is motivating your child to ask in the first place. And if it is a topic you feel very uncomfortable with, take some deep breaths and try to remain calm. Children are like dogs–they can smell fear.

5. Know that potential abusers may not be who you’d expect.

The image in the media of people that sexually abuse children and the reality are often very different pictures. Statistically, it’s not the stranger lurking in the bushes that we should be most concerned about, it’s the people in our children’s lives that they like, trust, and sometimes even love. People that abuse children often use the close relationship that they have developed with the child as a way to keep the abuse a secret. If you are not familiar with the term grooming process, please google it to learn more.

Studies also show that children that live in a household with their mother and a male that is not related to the child (a boyfriend, a stepfather, a roommate,)–these children are 20 times more likely to be abused than a child that lives with both of his biological parents. Now, I’m not trying to start a debate about the ideal family structure. I just want to ask single moms especially to please be careful about the people that you allow to to be alone with your child. I can understand why a mother would see a potential mate who seems to be excited about meeting her children and really friendly towards them as a positive. I personally would see that as a red flag. A man that is interested in me romantically should be interested in me, not my kids.

I know a woman who was on one of her first dates with a man who told her that he wanted to take her child camping.Yes, alone. Needless to say, he did not get another date. This is just one example, but if you familiarize yourself with the grooming process, you can learn about many others. Adults should feel most comfortable with and most interested in spending time with other adults–not children.

It is also worth noting that a disproportionate number of crimes of sexual abuse are not committed by adults, but by children under the age of 18. So your pre-teen babysitter, your child’s older “friend” from down the street–these are people that you need to be cautious of as well.

6. Handle your business.

Your children need to know that as their parent, you are there to protect and nurture them–not the other way around. You are the adult, you are responsible for your own feelings. Your children don’t make you angry or happy or sad. Just like everyone else in your life, your children behave a certain way and you make a choice about how to respond.

Don’t make your children responsible for your emotional baggage (and we’ve all got baggage.) They are not psychologically equipped to deal with it. If your children feel like it is their responsibility to take care of you, they might avoid coming to you with news that they don’t think you can handle. If you find yourself leaning on your kids to fulfill your emotional needs, I hope you’ll consider getting help from another trusted adult.

In addition, another risk factor for abuse is having parents that are struggling with substance abuse issues. If you think you might have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, please do what you need to do to take care of yourself. There are a number of free resources around the globe for people struggling: alcoholics anonymous (www.aa.org) and narcotics anonymous (www.na.org) are just two that come to mind. You owe it to your kids (and to yourself,) to be an emotionally healthy, present and vibrant person.

6 1/2. Reach out to others.

I called this one 6 1/2 because it doesn’t have anything to do with protecting your own children. It has to do with protecting other children. People that sexually abuse children often target kids that seem isolated, neglected or in need of positive attention. If there is a child in your neighborhood that often seems to be alone or unprotected by his or her own parents–perhaps consider inviting the child into your home. Even if it’s just a couple of hours sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons, that is more time that they are in the care of a concerned, responsible adult.

Finally, if you are reading this and you experienced sexual abuse in your own life, please know that it was not your fault. If you find yourself still struggling with the effects of the experience, there is help available. www.rainn.org is an organization that offers resources for people that have experienced various types of sexual assault, including a 24-hour online helpline. Healing is possible; you just have to take the necessary steps to find it.

Thank you for reading. If there are additional tips or other thoughts that you’d like to share–please leave them in the comments.

DeAnna is a former psychotherapist turned blogger and stay-at-home mom. You can read her thoughts about race, racism and other forms of inequality on her blog: www.myblackfriendsays.com

6 Ways to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse