Monday, 29 October 2007

myths and facts

The first response the majority of people form when hearing of sexual child abuse or incest is denial: “I do not have to be concerned about that in my community.” “That would never happen in my family.”

The unbelievable reality is that a person who sexually abuses children may seem very average and ordinary to the world. He/she may be a leader in the church, in the community or in business, a sports coach, scout leader, or celebrity. Sex offenders do not fit a classic stereotype and are not necessarily uneducated, unemployed, impoverished or an alcoholic.

The majority of people find sexual abuse and incest even more difficult to believe or accept when the sex offender is someone they like, admire, love, and/or marry. Tragically, the unwillingness to accept the facts concerning sex offenders leaves children vulnerable to becoming victims and increases the likelihood they will be abused.

Myth: Rape/incest runs in the family--it is in the genes.

Fact: Rape is not in the genes in the family of someone who rapes. Rape is perpetrated by someone who is acting out rage. Physical and sexual child abuse are the majority factor in creating the level of rage that compels anyone to commit rape, domestic violence or murder. We have known for a long time that the one commonality among rapists is physical and/or sexual child abuse. Serial killer, Ted Bundy is a classic example of this phenomenon. Since 80% of sexual child abuse survivors are sexually abused by family members there are usually several generations within a rapist's family--sometimes both maternal and paternal. Current statistics reveal 70% of children are physically abused once a week. It is believed the number of children who are physically abused has decreased in the past 15 years. However, the current rapists in society would have grown up in the era when physical abuse was more prominent, therefore, we can assume there is a high percentage of people, who are potential rapists when we consider date rape and rape in domestic violence, which is seldom reported or if it is reported, is seldom prosecuted. Therefore, society has no way to access the number of rapes committed per capita.

Myth: Children lie or fantasize about sexual activities with adults.

Fact: Using developmental terms, young children cannot make up explicit sexual information. They must be exposed to it to speak about it. Sometimes a parent will coach a child to report sexual abuse falsely. The key indicators of the falseness in such a report are the child's inability to describe explicit details, the inability to illustrate the act, or gross inconsistencies within the account.

Myth: Most victims of sexual abuse are teenaged girls.

Fact: While more girls than boys are sexually abused, many are abused before their first birthday.

Myth: Boys can't be sexually abused.

Fact: Masculine gender socialization instills in boys the belief they are to be strong; they should learn to protect themselves. In truth, boys are children and are as vulnerable as girls. They cannot really fight back against the sex offender. A sex offender generally has greater size, strength, knowledge, or a position of authority, using such resources as money or other bribes, or outright threats—whatever advantage the sex offender can take to get what they want.

Myth: Sexual abuse of a child is usually an isolated, one-time incident.

Fact: Child sexual abuse and incest occurrences develop gradually, over time; often, repeat occurrences are generally the rule rather than the exception.

Myth: Children will naturally outgrow the effects of sexual abuse or incest.

Fact: Sexual abuse or incest affects every aspect of human development. The damage is profound, extensive and pervasive. It is deeper than the physical and emotional level—it is a soul injury that requires multifaceted, multidimensional, therapeutic processing conducted by a professional who specializes in sexual abuse and incest trauma recovery.

Myth: Non-violent sexual behavior between a child and an adult is not emotionally damaging to the child.

Fact: Although child sexual abuse often involves subtle rather than extreme force, all survivors experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, as well as a lowered sense of self-esteem; these are classic aftereffects, although they may not initially reveal obvious signs.

Myth: Child molesters are all, ‘Dirty old men.’

Fact: In a recent study of convicted child sex offenders, 80% committed their first offense before age 30.

Myth: Children provoke sexual abuse by their seductive behavior.

Fact: Seductive behavior may be the result, but is never the cause of sexual abuse. Amy Fisher, the Long Island teenager who shot her sex offender's wife in the face and whom the media dubbed, Lolita having an affair with a married man, is a perfect example of this myth. During her trial for attempting to kill Joey Buttafuoco's wife, Amy Fisher revealed that she had been sexually abused before her abuse by Buttafuoco. Her behavior that many considered seductive and promiscuous was, in fact, a result of prior abuse. However, regardless of the victim's behavior or reason for such behavior, the responsibility for appropriate behavior always lays with the adult, not the child. A sixteen-year-old girl is no match for the cunning and streetwise tactics of a man twice her age, therefore, the ability to affect adult consent is unreasonable to expect.

Myth: If children wanted to avoid sexual advances of adults, or persons in positions of greater power, they could say, stop or no.

Fact: Children generally do not question the behavior of adults. In addition, bribes, threats, flattery, trickery and use of authority coerce them into cooperation and compliance.

Myth: When a child is sexually abused, it is immediately apparent.

Fact: In cases of incest against children, as much as the sex offender might be hurting the victim, the child loves him or her and needs her family. Therefore, she convinces herself that she is somehow causing him or her to behave this way, and she remains silent. In her confusion of loyalty to her sex offender, she protects him or her by holding the secret. Thus, she carries the shame and guilt. In cases regarding sexual abuse and incest, the victim often believes that she has cooperated with the sex offender in some way and places inappropriate blame on herself. Therefore, although with tremendous suffering, she hides her pain through denial, dissociation, numbing, zoning out, hyperactivity, as well as other distracting behaviors. However, the aware parent would recognize these behaviors as a sign that something is wrong.

Myth: When the sexual abuse victim is male, male homosexuals are the sex offenders.

Fact: Heterosexual men, who do not find sex with other men satisfactory, perpetrate most child sexual abuse. Many child molesters, even though they are heterosexual, abuse both boys and girls.

Myth: Boys abused by males are or will become homosexual.

Fact: Whether victimized by males or females, boys or girls, premature sexual experiences are damaging in many ways, including confusion about their sexual identity and orientation.

Myth: When a boy and a woman take part in sexual behavior and it is the boy's idea, he is not being abused.

Fact: Child abuse is an act of power by which an adult uses a child. Abuse is abuse; a woman engaging in sexual behavior with a male child is still sexually abusive, even if she thinks he initiated the contact.

Myth: If the sex offender is female, the boy or adolescent is fortunate to have been initiated into heterosexual activity.

Fact: Premature or coerced sex, whether by a mother, aunt, sister, babysitter or other female causes confusion, at best, and rage, depression or other problems in more negative circumstances. Whether male or female, to be used as a sexual object is always abusive and damaging.

Myth: If the child experiences sexual arousal or orgasm from abuse, he or she has been a willing participant or enjoyed it.

Fact: Children can respond physically to stimulation (get an erection) even in traumatic or painful sexual situations. A sex offender can maintain secrecy by labeling the child's sexual response as an indication of his or her willingness to participate. You liked it, you wanted it. The survivor is then manipulated with their own guilt and shame because they experienced physical arousal while being abused. Physical, visual or auditory stimulation is likely to occur in a sexual situation. It does not mean the child wanted the experience or understood what it meant.

Myth: Males who were sexually abused as boys all grow up to sexually abuse children.

Fact: Only some sexually abused boys become sex offenders.

Myth: Boys are less traumatized as victims of sexual abuse than girls.

Fact: Studies show that long-term effects are equally damaging for either sex. Ironically, males may be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their own resultant belief that they must ‘tough it out’ in silence.

Myth: If a child is sexually active with his or her peers, then it is not sexual abuse.

Fact: The act is abusive if the child is induced into sexual activity with anyone who is in a position of greater power, whether that power is derived through the sex offender's age, size, status, or relationship. A child who cannot refuse, or who believes she or he cannot refuse, is a child who has been violated.

Unless and until, society focuses on sexual child abuse prevention, before the damage is done, sexual abuse of children will continue to proliferate. Child sexual abuse is the greatest hidden epidemic in the world.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author, "If I'd Only Known...Sexual Abuse in or Out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Prevention and Recovery. As an inspirational leader, Dr. Neddermeyer empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening

Article Source:

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Sexual assault: dark secrets

By Hilary Russ
STAFF WRITER, Cape Cod Times
September 23, 2007

The Yarmouth girl had a secret about her stepdad.

He molested her, as he had other kids. Yet he seems to haunt her more than ever, years later, even after she finally came forward and helped send him to prison for the abuse.

Now an older teenager, she is running wild, her mom "Sandy" recently told the Times.

"She just doesn't understand, because we had such a perfect life, why he did it," Sandy said. "She wants to know why, and there's not an answer."

Young, female and now having nightmares about a man she thought she knew — it's the most common profile of a sexual assault victim in Massachusetts and throughout the country.

While you might not hear much about them — media outlets don't cover as many sexual crimes as actually occur, in part because of issues with victim's privacy — survivors are out there.
Lots of them. More than you might want to know.

High-profile cases make national news and frightening local instances of stranger rape put communities on alert. But perpetrators are more often hiding in plain sight. They're often acquaintances, partners and family members.

About a third of criminal cases in all the Cape and Islands' superior courts combined — Barnstable and the smaller Nantucket and Dukes courts — involve sexual assault, according to Brian Glenny, Cape and Islands first assistant district attorney. Allegations range from threats to horrifyingly violent or grossly perverted abuse.

And the cases that make it to court, or get reported to police at all, are only a portion of all the sexual assaults that likely occur, according to experts. "The number of victims that I've worked with personally, who have not reported, is stunning," said Sheridan Haines, executive director of the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which Gov. Deval Patrick re-established in June.

Most sexual assault victims are women, they can also be men or boys, old or young, of any ethnicity, of any sexuality.

The same is true for perpetrators. Children attack children, men attack men, mothers assault daughters. Men break into homes or rape a woman in the bushes as she walks down a dark street. Any scenario you can think of has probably happened, here on the Cape.

But more often than not, victims are young women whose perpetrators are men they already know. A date or boyfriend or husband. A father. A grandfather.

Someone she trusts. Someone she loves.

Most victims know attackers
"When people think of sex crimes, they think of strangers. They think of streets. They don't understand that the majority of sex crimes happen behind closed doors, committed by parents and siblings and partners," said Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, "not by the stranger our mothers warned us about."

That's what happened to the Yarmouth girl, and it ripped the man she trusted out of her life and the lives of her family.

He had touched her body, her buttocks and vagina. He raped her, forced her to give him oral sex and touch his genitals (he was later cleared on some charges, convicted on others). She was 7 for much of the abuse, which happened repeatedly, at home.

But that's just what happened to her. After the girl, now in her late teens, came forward, her mother lost a husband, her siblings a father. And she lost a caregiver she loved. She feels his loss, and she feels guilty for taking him away from his new baby when he went to prison, even though the teen knows she may have stopped him from assaulting other kids.

"She doesn't believe there's a God," Sandy said. "She believes if there was a God, he wouldn't have allowed this to happen to her. To the family."

"You ruined my life"
Sandy and her now ex-husband didn't exactly start out on the right path together, and they've both had brushes with the law.

She already had children, was on welfare and battling cancer. He was dealing drugs. But they both started working, built careers and earned a good living, she said.

All the while, his family was keeping his secret. A niece disclosed sexual assault after Sandy refused to continue paying out what she later realized was hush money. One of Sandy's younger children said that he had been molesting her, too. "Daddy gave me boo boos," the 3-year-old, his biological child, told Sandy at the time.

Violence was also part of the family's history. Five years before they married, Sandy took out restraining orders against him — one lasted for a year — for physical abuse, including an attempt to push her off a balcony, according to court documents.

When Sandy told her then-husband's father about the sexual abuse, she said the older man put a gun down her throat lest she go forward with the allegations.

But when Sandy confronted her husband, tears rolled down his cheeks, she said. He didn't deny it. They were on the beach.

"I just started poundin' on him," she said. "People came to break us up."

Sandy later tried running over him with her car and beating down his door with an aluminum bat, she admitted, her anger still palpable years later as she related the incidents.

Sandy's been in therapy for years and her kids have gone in and out of counseling. Sometimes, she said, she had to physically drag them to the therapist to get help. "I just couldn't do it no more."

Not that they couldn't use it. "She's gone buck wild," Sandy said of her teenage daughter, a round-faced, curly-haired girl who used to get good grades.

"I tell her, 'Don't let this ruin your life,'" Sandy said.

"'No, you (expletive deleted), you ruined my life,'" she said her daughter yells back.

Sandy admitted to once hitting the girl after she spat out a string of obscenities at her at the breakfast table in front of the other kids.

The teenager's cell phone was disconnected and the girl did not attend an interview the Times scheduled through her mother.

The girl has post-traumatic stress disorder and may be suicidal, her mom said.

Rape victims are six times more likely to suffer PTSD than non-victims, and three times more likely to suffer from major depression, according to a 2003 survey of adult female rape victims in Massachusetts. Rape victims also show substantially increased risk of suicide attempts and use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs, studies show.

"I had this sweet little innocent girl at one time," Sandy said. "I thought the trial was going to help (my daughter). It didn't. It really made matters worse."

Cape family nightmare

A Marstons Mills girl was just 3 when she asked her mother the question that would later divide the family: "Mommy, when will I get a tail like Uncle D?"

"I froze," her mom, "Kristen," said in a recent interview.

She asked her toddler questions, but the girl kept repeating everything she said. Crying, Kristen called her husband. Neither one knew what to do.

The couple sent their daughter to Kristen's mother's house for the night so they could talk to Uncle D, who was just 16 and staying with them to try to improve his schooling.

"He was really good with (my daughter). Really good," Kristen said. "You thought, wow, what a great uncle."

That night, they confronted him. Kristen asked him, "What have you done to her?"

"He just started crying and crying, saying that he loved her and, you know, he would never hurt her. And I felt bad that I was accusing him of something," Kristen said. "I was in denial. I was young. I was 21. You didn't really hear much about sexual abuse. You saw it on the TV, you thought that it was everywhere else but here. So we believed him."

Uncle D told them the girl could have walked in on him while he used the restroom. They bought it. Everything seemed fine. He later moved out.

In truth, he had been molesting the girl while he played hide and seek with her outside, while her mother was in the house. "That's how quick stuff can happen, and I had no idea — at all," Kristen said.

Three years later in Tennessee, the girl suddenly refused to say goodbye to Uncle D after a family vacation.

"I can remember being embarrassed," Kristen said of her daughter's behavior. Again, he had molested her, following her into a bathroom while everyone was outside the home they were visiting. The incident triggered old memories, her mom said.

Still, the shy girl didn't tell her parents.

Finally, later that year, Kristen was driving her daughter to ballet practice and told her that Uncle D would be there. "And she just started screaming, 'No, no, no! Don't you remember? Don't you remember? He showed me his privates,'" Kristen recalled. "So I had to keep myself together, and I told her he would never come. I brought her into dance and then just kind of lost it. I still had no idea where to go, what to do."

The next day, she called a guidance counselor at school, who gave her numbers for Children's Cove in Barnstable.

Then she had to fill out a police report.

"That was scary. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, are they gonna take the kids? Is this it? Did I do something wrong?" Kristen said. "I was going back to when she was 3. I didn't do anything, so I totally put the blame on myself."

Fair or not, blame and guilt are frequent companions to disclosures of sexual assault. Victims and their loved ones blame each other, police, the legal system, school teachers, social workers. Blaming the perpetrator doesn't seem to provide solace to many whose lives are ravaged.

Uncle D had also molested another cousin, and Kristen called the parents — her husband's brother and his wife — to let them know. They stopped talking to Kristen's family. Eventually, Kristen's husband's side of the family stopped talking to them altogether.

"She blamed herself for daddy losing his parents," Kristen said of her daughter's perception of the family discord. "We turn that around and say because she told, she saved (our) other two kids. As much as we tell her that, do I think she really believes it? No."

Kristen is now worried that her timid daughter won't speak up if something bad happens to her again. In part, that's because despite Kristen's police report and personal sleuthing to track down Uncle D, who is likely in another state, he's never been interviewed or charged by officials, Kristen said.

"Why would she say anything? It's hard work to deal with bad stuff. It causes a lot of turmoil, and then nothing happens. I don't think in a child's eyes, she can see that, 'Oh, I've had therapy and I've moved on,'" Kristen said.

How sexual assault survivors fare after their ordeal depends on a complicated mix of factors, said Lysetta Hurge-Putnam. As executive director of Independence House, which provides free services for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors on the Cape, she has dealt mostly with adults. "There's a whole range of responses," she said.

Victims may have flashbacks or nightmares, and many have difficulties working, studying or sleeping. They may develop a lack of trust in themselves. Others can't differentiate between rape, which is forced or coerced, and intimacy, in which the person makes his or her own choice about their sexual acts.

"But all survivors describe feeling very violated, betrayed," Hurge-Putnam said.

Kristen wonders how much the abuse has molded her daughter. But time, at least, seems to
have been a salve.

"Well, when I was younger it was in the front of my mind. And I was more sad," the gangly girl, not yet a teenager, said quietly in an interview with the Times.

"But now that it's in the back of my mind, I'm happier."

Survivors, speak up, break your agonizing silence

People are listening, you are NOT alone. Share your stories in Sattva:

November 19 - World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse

Have a look at the Open Letter and the Poster of WWSF (Women's World Summit Foundation) on the World Day coming up soon:

Pedophiles drawn to ESL jobs, groups warn

Adrian Humphreys , National Post

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

As the international hunt continues for a Canadian teacher suspected of sexually abusing children in Asia, child-protection activists are warning that pedophiles are increasingly seeking work overseas as English-language instructors as a way to feed their illicit desires.
Christopher Paul Neil, 32, was an English-as-a-second-language teacher in Korea when Interpol released his photograph and named him as a man sexually abusing young children in Southeast Asia in pictures shared over the Internet.

The Maple Ridge, B.C., man remains a fugitive and was last seen arriving in Thailand at Bangkok's international airport last Thursday on a flight from South Korea.
He had worked at several schools in South Korea for five years, although the photographs of young boys engaged in sex acts were taken in Vietnam and Cambodia.

"The teaching profession is very, very vulnerable. The English-language teachers are so needed, in such demand. It is such a status thing to have an English teacher at a school," said Rosalind Prober, president of Beyond Borders, a Canadian organization working to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

A culture of reverence toward teachers in some of the countries where child sexual exploitation is common adds to the fears that teachers avoid close scrutiny.

And teaching, of course, puts teachers close to children.

"It's a dirty secret, if you will, that these individuals will try and go in under that sort of cover to have ready access to children," said Jamie McIntosh, executive director of International Justice Mission Canada, an organization that helps rescue children from exploitation abroad.

A number of South Asian and Central American countries in need of teachers are also known for child-sex tourism.

"Pedophiles are drawn to places where they think they can hide. They are attracted to environments where they think they can get away with it," Mr. McIntosh said.

Child-sex-crime investigators are aware of the attractiveness that an ESL job in Asia might hold for a pedophile.

"We do hear stories, complaints if you will, that some of these people have opportunity to work abroad," said Detective-Sergeant Kim Scanlan, head of the Toronto Police sex-crimes unit.

"Sometimes pedophiles set themselves up in these types of positions, specifically in countries that are vulnerable - anything that puts a pedophile closer to their interest, their fantasy to be with children," she said.

The RCMP's national child exploitation co-ordination centre is studying anecdotal reports of deviant overseas ESL teachers to see if there are valid statistics to back up concern of it being an emerging trend, said Staff Sergeant Rick Greenwood, the centre's operations manager.

As in any activity anywhere that puts adults close to children, accreditation and background checks are key, he said.

"Some agencies are very good and some less so," Staff Sgt. Greenwood said.

ESL teachers, meanwhile, worry the attention to the case makes them all look dirty.

"I fear that everyone who hears I teach English in Asia will suddenly think I'm there to diddle the kids. It makes me sick, physically sick," said one veteran teacher who asked that his name not be published.

Members of online chat groups for ESL teachers, including one frequented by Mr. Neil before he was named as a pedophile suspect, have also expressed concern.

"When you think about the tireless volunteers who give their time, it must be very hard for them - most of them are there for the right reasons," Det.-Sgt. Scanlan said.

Meanwhile, police are wondering where Mr. Neil is.

With all of the media reports internationally - receiving an unusual amount of attention in Thailand, for instance - and so many pictures of him being printed and broadcast, investigators are surprised he is still at large, leading to suggestions he may have killed himself because of the publicity.

Others suggest he may have headed to Thailand to visit one of the private cosmetic surgery clinics found in Bangkok.

"I thought he would have been found by now," said Staff Sgt. Greenwood.

14 years, countless cases

(As told to Namita Kohli),
Hindustan Times
October 14, 2007

"I have lost count of the number of rescue operations I’ve been part of,” says 39-year-old Ravi Kant, who has been working against human traffickers for the last 14 years. Since 2001, Kant has been running his NGO Shakti Vahini in Uttar Pradesh. Here, he narrates some of his field experiences — a grim reminder of the crime that’s taking place somewhere around our comfort zones.

December 2006, Faridabad (UP): This was a very disturbing case of child sexual abuse. A young couple had brought three minor girls to Faridabad for domestic work. The children, who were not even in their teens, were kept captive in the toilet. They were served food on the toilet floor, beaten and sexually abused. I saw injury marks on their bodies. When we reached the house, the lady refused to open the door, but later gave in. The police arrested the couple, but there was a lot of pressure to release them. As for the girls, they were very traumatised and could barely speak. To add insult to injury, the victims are sometimes made to sit on the floors to narrate their stories.

December 2006, Jind (Haryana): One Ajmer Singh lured a 13-year-old girl, Tripala, from Jharkhand on the pretext of marrying her. She was taken to a farmhouse where she was asked to have sex with his brother. When she refused, Singh slit her throat. I traced her parents to Ranchi. When I broke the news of her murder to them, they were shattered. In many such forced marriages, parents back home are unaware of their daughter’s fate.

December 2006, Delhi: One night, I got a call from the local informants about Manju. She had been trafficked from Latur, Maharashtra, to a brothel in Kamala market. When I reached the spot with my team some 25 minutes later, their musclemen were hanging around, as always. The senior women in the brothel, who are usually aware of the law, tried to stop us by raising a hue and cry. Usually, in such times, they hide the victim in a water tank or the attic. But Manju was in a room. She had managed to persuade another victim to come to us. The girls had been beaten, raped, and had faced a lot of violence. As we took them out, all sorts of threat followed. ‘Dekh lenge, aapne accha nahi kiya,’ they said. The threats and menacing glares followed us in court as well. In places like Delhi, rescue operations are easier. But in smaller cities like Agra and Meerut, the local police are at times hand-in-glove with brothel-owners, making the operation difficult.

October 2005, Haryana: Three girls from Assam and West Bengal were trafficked to Mewat and were about to be sold for marriage. The whole village was up in arms against the rescue operation. Even the police were sceptical. Some violence also took place. It took us two to three hours to counsel them. ‘What would you do if these were your daughters? These are human beings, they can’t be sold like property,’ we appealed to them. They finally gave in.

Israel - Almost 90% of Children Reported Sexual Assault

Mon 15-Oct-2007, 09:00 ET
Newswise — Almost 90% of teenagers aged 12-18 claim to have been victims of some level of sexual violence, according to a study conducted jointly by the University of Haifa and Ben Gurion University. The research surveyed 1,036 high school students. Additionally, 82% of the boys and 76% of the girls reported said that they had been subjects of violent physical assault.

Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel from the University of Haifa's School of Social Work, one of the authors of the study, noted that the results showed a distressing increase in the incidence of violence – both sexual and physical - over the past few years. The number of criminal files opened by the police for assault against children rose from 6,370 in 1998 to 8,805 in 2005. According to the National Council for the Child, the number of children treated for suspected violent attacks or abuse in 2005 stood at more than 37,000, a rise of 120% over the past decade. Of the 37,000, 30.5% were reported physical violence, 9.9% sexual, 13% psychological and 36.8% varying degrees of neglect.

Prof. Lev-Wiesel stressed that the aim of the research was to examine the personal and social factors that help adolescents cope with the trauma of a violent assault. A questionnaire was completed anonymously by over 1,000 high school students. The questionnaire measured six variables: demography, physical and sexual assaults, PTSD, potency and social support from family and friends.

According to the researchers, there is a distinct correlation between a child's feeling of potency and the level of traumatic symptoms exhibited following a violent attack. The study found a distinctive difference in the personal resources and the level of psychological distress of the children who suffered violent attacks as opposed to those who did not – whether the violence was limited to one incident or continuing and whether the attack was considered minor or severe. Boys in the study reported a higher incidence of sexual and physical violence than girls.

"The results of the research show that a feeling of potency and support of family and friends are important resources which have the potential to reduce the resulting trauma following assault. In addition to the importance of developing programs to decrease the incidence of violence, these is a need for programs for empowerment and strengthening personal resources that will protect those who have already fallen victim to violence," summarized Prof. Lev-Wiesel.

The results of the study were presented at a conference, held on October 10, 2007, in cooperation with the University of Haifa, announcing the establishment of a non-profit organization founded by academics, professionals in the fields of social services and healthcare, lawmakers and the media to fight the rising incidence of violence and propose concrete solutions for aiding victims.

Inside Karen’s Crowded Mind

By Anne Underwood NEWSWEEK
Oct 29, 2007 Issue

Even for a psychiatric patient, Karen Overhill seemed unusually devoid of hope on the day in 1989 she walked into the Chicago office of Dr. Richard Baer. As weeks of therapy grew into months, antidepressants didn't help her, at least not consistently. She was suicidal—and the flat, emotionless way she stated her wish to die made Baer fear that she might actually follow through. Eventually, Karen began to volunteer stories of childhood abuse. And she mentioned odd memory lapses. She would find herself in strange places with no awareness of how she'd gotten there. She couldn't even remember having had sex with her husband, although she must have, since they had two children.

Baer suspected a much deeper problem than the depression and suicidal thoughts Karen admitted to. Still, he kept his speculation to himself during the first four years of therapy, for fear of planting ideas in Karen's mind. He waited for her to volunteer the information, and in a way, she finally did. In November 1993, an envelope with Karen's return address arrived in the mail. Inside was a single sheet of lined paper and a letter written in a child's penciled scrawl. "My name is Claire," it began. "I am 7 years old. I live inside Karen."

The remarkable medical journey that ensued is the subject of Baer's new book, "Switching Time." It recounts the 17-year course of Karen's therapy in all its painful detail and sheds new light on multiple personality disorder (MPD), the controversial illness that afflicted her. (Karen Overhill is a pseudonym Baer created to protect his patient and her family.) The book describes the challenges Baer faced as more and more of Karen's alter egos emerged—men, women and children—a total of 17, each with his or her own character traits, mental problems and agenda. Baer had to get to know them all, then persuade them to wipe out their individual identities by merging into one. It was the defining case of his career—and one that may have saved Karen's life.

But was Karen's disorder real? There have been allegations that some purported MPD sufferers were just publicity seekers. Yet Baer doesn't have the slightest doubt. As he points out, there are easier ways to gain notoriety than 17 years of therapy. And how could a poseur have maintained each alter's distinct memories, personality, voice and mannerisms for years, never mixing them up? "Meryl Streep couldn't have done it," he says. The alters even wrote him letters in different handwriting.

Still, it's easy to see why MPD remains controversial. Although the condition has been observed for 200 years—and is officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association under the formal name "dissociative identity disorder"—it is rare enough that most therapists never treat a case. Some psychiatrists doubt that it exists at all, claiming it is the product of suggestion. In some cases, they're probably right. The 1973 best seller "Sybil" led to a wave of diagnoses by therapists who didn't really understand the condition. One psychiatric hospital in Maryland "had a whole ward with patients—some male, some female, some mooing like cows or barking like dogs," says Dr. Paul McHugh, former chair of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and a leading skeptic. It didn't help that both the made-for-TV movie version of "Sybil," which starred Sally Field, and the 1957 film "The Three Faces of Eve" gave exaggerated portrayals of radical personality shifts, which made MPD seem more bizarre than believable—or that the disorder was later enmeshed in the controversy over false "recovered memories" of childhood abuse. MPD became an embarrassing diagnosis in the psychiatric community.

But it didn't go away. Dr. Frank Putnam—who has studied the condition extensively, first at the National Institute of Mental Health and now at Cincinnati Children's Hospital—continues to receive calls from psychiatrists around the country who are stunned when a patient of theirs turns out to have the disorder. "There's nothing like seeing a patient who has it to make you believe," he says. Today there are clearer diagnostic criteria and a better understanding of the causes. The condition, says Dr. Herbert Speigel, who occasionally treated Sybil during her therapist's absence, is "real, but rare."

That's a good thing, given the way it's believed to begin. According to psychiatrists, MPD arises primarily in children who are subjected to severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Having no other escape, they create different personalities to handle different parts of their troubled lives—then wall the personalities off from one another with mental barriers, so that no single persona has to handle too much. "As a child, if Daddy is about to do bad things to you, you say, 'I'll go to my secret place where it's not happening to me, but to some other little girl'," says Putnam.

To a lesser extent, the same thing happens routinely to trauma victims when they experience numbing, detachment and even out-of-body experiences. "Rape victims often say that during the rape, they saw themselves floating above the person, feeling sorry for her," says Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry at Stanford and co-editor of a new textbook on traumatic dissociation. The difference is that adults who detach themselves in this way usually reintegrate later. Chronically abused children may not, because their sense of identity is still malleable—and because the trauma is so persistent.

The abuse Karen Overhill endured, as described in Baer's book, was almost inhuman. While she was still in grade school, her father and grandfather subjected her to late-night, quasi-religious rituals, in which they strapped her to tables and told her she was evil. Saying that "God wanted her to suffer," they stuck her with pins and violated her prepubescent body with electric cattle prods, screwdrivers, knives and even crucifixes. They shut her into coffins. They dunked her in cold water. Her mother, who seemed incapable of acknowledging the atrocities, maintained deniability by taking a night job. It is impossible to verify these accounts, but in 1993, Karen's father was convicted on 19 counts of sexually molesting his granddaughter, Karen's niece.

The creation of separate alters may seem a bizarre way to cope, but it's not as if patients imagine themselves as Cleopatra or Napoleon. Each persona handles a different aspect of the sufferer's life. As Baer explains in his book, an alter named Claire would emerge when Karen was dragged from bed at night, so that Karen had little memory of the abuse the next day. When the torture began, Miles would take over. As a boy, he couldn't be violated in the same way and therefore couldn't fully absorb it mentally. Elise was created so that Karen could go to school the next day and act normal, having donned long pants and sleeves to cover the bruises. Sidney was the ball-playing child who related to Karen's father as if nothing was amiss, allowing Karen to survive in a household where, as a young girl, she was dependent on her dad. Lacking decent parents of her own, Karen even created Katherine and Holdon to be the responsible adults in her life, modeling them on figures she saw in sitcoms like "Father Knows Best" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." The alters would come and go as needed, taking over Karen's conscious thoughts. When she regained awareness, all she knew was that she had "lost time."

This system protected Karen as a child, but in her late 20s, she descended into a deep depression that sent her to Dr. Baer. The key to treatment was reintegrating the alters into the single personality Karen has today. It was a painstaking process, convincing each alter to merge, but it worked. With each reintegration, says Baer, Karen acquired that alter's memories and character traits—strength, humor, compassion, anger. With each one, she became a more colorful, complete version of herself. Still, she was fragile. It took an additional eight years of therapy to build up her self- esteem. Today, meeting with a reporter in her midwestern apartment, she projects warmth, openness and a remarkable lack of rancor. Her alters would be proud.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Documentary on sexual abuse is a portrait of healing

By Florangela Davila
Seattle Times TV writer

"Stories of Silence: Recovering from Sexual Abuse," an hour-length documentary airing on KCTS tonight, turns the spotlight on how men have healed after the trauma. And that was exactly Seattle filmmaker Ethan Delavan's point.

"Remember that Clint Eastwood movie 'Mystic River?' I loved it and I hated it," Delavan said in an interview recently. "The victim, for the whole movie, was a useless twit. There's this notion that when someone's abused that their life is ruined. What I wanted to do, in this film, is to show the getting better. And the different ways men have."

Delavan knows all the experience: He was abused by an uncle in Utah and in Texas when he was about 8.

He talks about it in the film; so do his parents, a brother and a cousin. But these interviews are just part of a chorus of recollections from many men and their family members talking about sexual abuse.

Delavan didn't think his family could tolerate the kind of in-depth interviewing and reporting he would need to do to turn a single narrative about his own life.

He also didn't want to narrow the film to one particular type of abuse, namely the sexual abuse by Catholic priests. "Although I could have gone in depth about so much betrayal by the church," he says about the stories he collected from some of his interviewees.

Rather, he wanted his starting point to be: "It happened. Now, what?"

"How do we deal? How do we become a whole person and have whole relationships?"

That's the third phase of such an experience. First, you're a victim. Then, a survivor. Finally, you find a kind of voice.

"For men it's not usually OK to show our feelings, to be vulnerable. But a group of men getting together saying 'We're hurt' is a huge relief. It's a relief for men to be able to open up."

This is the first feature-length documentary for Delavan, 36, who teaches media arts at Seattle Country Day School. Some of the school parents, in fact, helped finance the film, which cost some $15,000 and six years to make.

Delavan attended a 2001 National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization conference as well as a 2003 Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests to gather footage. He weaves in courtroom footage of one man who took his abuser to trial. He films therapists. He shows us one man singing a song and another man showing off his upper-body tattoo. "Here's where the pedophile priest lies," the man says pointing to an image on his chest.

The men are named, but they're introduced so rapidly it's hard to keep track of who's who. Or where's where: We see one man with his family in the backyard, the tattoo guy talking from the side of a road, but both men could be speaking from Anywhere, U.S.A.

Those could be serious turnoffs for viewers who prefer a one-hour documentary to have a more conventional beginning, middle and end; to be more character-driven than topic driven; to even, simply, include some statistics. What's the national number for the men who've been sexually abused?

At a screening for survivors, however, Delavan received a standing ovation.

"One message I wanted to get across is that there is an end to the pain. And you do regain yourself. You do."

And if there was any way for him to go back in time, to not have been abused, Delavan says in the film that he would not. Because, he says, it's made him who he is today.

[ Source: Askios ]

Friday, 12 October 2007

Sex, lies and children

India’s best kept dirty secret is out. More children are sexually abused in our country than anywhere else in the world

Nishi Malhotra, Chandigarh

It was back in the early 1980s that late actress Parveen Babi made a statement about most Indian girls not being virgins. What she meant was that they are sexually abused within the intimacy of their own joint family systems well before they begin dating or get married. I was studying in Delhi University at that time and remember the debates it sparked off in college hostels. One late evening, 12 girls gathered in a dorm room to argue over what Babi, who was no authority on the subject, had so casually said, and wondered if it could possibly be true. Finally, a secret vote on paper chits was taken— everyone present had to write yes or no in answer to the simple question, “Were you sexually molested as a child, or did anyone ever attempt to molest you?” Not a scientific survey and not a significant sample considering the mostly upper and middle class background of the girls present—but nine out of 12 chits came back with a ‘yes’ scrawled across them.

India’s best kept dirty secret now has an official stamp on it. A new government report, Study on Child Abuse: India 2007, published by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, says, “India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children, with a child below 16 years raped every 155th minute, a child below ten every 13th hour, and one in every ten children sexually abused at any point in time.”

Conducted across 13 states (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi and Bihar are the worst offenders), the report reveals that a shocking 53.22 per cent of all Indian children are sexually abused and 70 per cent keep silent about what happens to them, neither reporting the abuse to parents nor to the police. The actual number has to be higher than the 53 per cent reported by this study because its sample group only comprised children aged 5 to 18—daily newspapers, as everyone knows, routinely report incidents of children as young as two to five also being raped and/or abused in the country.

For those who think only Indian girls are unsafe, here’s another shocker: Boys, says the study, are more at risk for sexual abuse than girls. Out of the 12,447 child respondents who reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse that included severe and other forms, 52.94 per cent were boys and 47.06 per cent were girls.

Along with the revelations of this study in recent days have come the contrarian voices of adult policy-makers in several Indian states who want to ban the introduction of sex education in the middle school syllabus by the CBSE Board in the current school year. Their argument is that sex education is not in keeping with the Indian ethos and will corrupt the minds of impressionable children.

However, the only key to controlling the prevalence of and eventually getting rid of child sexual abuse is empowering children with knowledge about their own bodies and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and contact with the adults and caregivers they interact with.

Harleen Kohli of the CEVA (Centre for Education and Voluntary Action) in Chandigarh has conducted sex education workshops for facilitators as well as children. “As a nation we are so reluctant to talk about life’s essentials like relationships and reproductive health with our children,” she says, adding, “ I see the faces of teachers of biology freeze over when they have to talk about reproduction…they skirt the subject and gloss over the details. Imagine, if ‘flour’ and ‘sugar’ were dirty words, would we be able to teach people how to cook?”

The most alarming aspect about child sexual abuse, indicates the study, is that the perpetrators of abuse are most often adults entrusted with the care of children—uncles, neighbours, teachers, older children, employers and sometimes parents as well. Strangers are involved only in a small percentage of cases. But “a girl whose mother has not spoken to her even about a basic issue like menstruation, is unable to tell her mother about the uncle or neighbour who has made sexual advances to her,” says the study report. This silence encourages abusers, emboldens them to continue the abuse and to press their advantage to subject the child to more severe forms of sexual abuse. Very often, children do not even realise they are being abused. They just bury the incident as a painful and shameful one, not to be ever told to anyone.

Vinod Kumar is a paan-beedi seller who lives in Chandigarh. In March this year, his 11-year old daughter disappeared, apparently abducted by Vinod’s 26-year old nephew who was also staying with the family. The father is distraught and defensive. “All five of my children used to spend time with my nephew who played with them. We never suspected him of doing any gandi harkat with my daughters. It is obvious now though that he had another agenda.”

Vinod has a clear case of abduction and has reported the matter to the police. But very often, even well-meaning families and adults who want to protect children do not know how to deal with other, more insidious forms of sexual abuse.

Some of the board members of a trust that runs an orphanage in Haryana have been concerned with the activities of one of their colleagues, who is known as a respected member of the community, towards the orphanage girls whose rooms he has been seen visiting at late hours of the evening. He has also been observed, say these members, in inappropriate physical contact with specific female children for whom he buys gifts.

How do they protect the children, they ask? They have no concrete evidence against the man to either confront him or go to the police, they cannot elicit complaints against the man from the orphanage girls who according to one of the lady members “enjoy his touching them” (possibly construed as affection by children), and they cannot vote him out because there is disagreement within the board about whether the 55-60- year-old man’s behaviour of touching, fondling, kissing and visiting the rooms of young teenage girls is inappropriate or not.

The government study defines child sexual abuse as ranging from ‘severe’ (sexual assault and fondling or having a child fondle an adult’s private parts) to ‘lesser’ forms (exposing a child to pornography). How can children be legally protected from sexual abuse?

According to Madhu P Singh, a Chandigarh high court lawyer and member of the Child Welfare Committee, there are no specific laws for child sexual abuse. Rape and sodomy can lead to criminal conviction under IPC Section 376. Anything less than rape amounts to ‘outraging the modesty’ and is covered under IPC Section 354. These laws are difficult enough to apply to adult women, and harder still for children—it is difficult to prove, for instance, that a child whose private parts were fondled by an adult is suffering from emotional trauma induced by that particular abuse perpetrated by the particular adult.

While Andhra Pradesh, by a state amendment, has made some offences cognisable, non-bailable and to be tried by a court of session (minimum punishment is imprisonment for seven years, and a fine), other states have not followed. What is also lacking is a central law on the subject. The Juvenile Justice Act was amended and rewritten in 2000, but it does not cover sexual abuse on children.

One initiative that has had limited success is the Childline helpline available in some cities. Madhu Singh says about four or five cases of sexual abuse are reported by children aged five to 16, or their well-wishers, every month. The Child Welfare Committee visits slums and creates awareness about the helpline. The reported cases are provided counselling and if necessary, institutionalised in shelters run by the Chandigarh administration. Recently, says Madhu, “We were able to help a 14 year-old middle class girl who called us because she was being sexually abused by her father.” She receives counselling, lives at the shelter, attends school, and “refuses to see her family any more.” Other children, once empowered by the counselling they receive, choose to return home. Singh confirmed that as many boys as girls come for counselling.

Typically, what are the repercussions of child sexual abuse? The humiliation of the experiences can have outcomes as severe as violence where victims themselves become perpetrators of sexual crimes when they grow up, mistrust of physical intimacy later on in life with a loving partner. There is a glaring absence of support systems for victims of sexual abuse in India, such as counsellors, legal activists, sex education or public campaigns for awareness. The medical training of Indian doctors usually overlooks the treatment of child sexual abuse victims and they often fail to recognise it in patients.

Study on Child Abuse: India 2007 should serve as a wake-up call to a nation that is living a lie—willingly blind to what it knows at its core to be true.

[ Source: Askios ]

India - Pre-abuse Grooming

Seema Prakash

[Note: For the sake of easy reading all perpetrators have been referred to as males and victims are referred to as children. Please note that perpetrators can be both genders and not all victims are children.]

On the 17th September 2007, the HT published an article ‘The Government has accepted a parliamentary panel’s suggestion that pre-offence “grooming” over the Net should be made a criminal offence’. While it is laudable that the government has decided to deliberate such a step, it is important for the public to know what ‘grooming’ is and why it needs to be seen as a criminal offense.

It is a fact that the Internet has provided a new and dangerous medium for committing sex offenses to which children and adolescents are especially vulnerable. While the perpetrator of sexual offenses on the net is often thought of as a deviant, perverted, loner and often a pedophile, it is important to remember that this is a misperception. Sex offenders and perpetrators of child sexual abuse live among us. They are relatives, neighbors, co-workers and they all have families. They are not anti social and deviant in all aspects, and may even have positive qualities and attributes. They are our brothers, sisters, parents and children. It is very difficult for us to reconcile to the fact that people we know respect and love may be molesters and abusers.

The very fact that they live amongst us makes it important for us to learn how to protect ourselves and our children. The first step in doing so is for us to accept that child sexual abuse depends on secrecy and that children most often don’t tell about the abuse when it begins. This is due to a process called ‘grooming’. Parents must learn about the powerful impact of grooming to dispel the illusion that their child will confide in them when abuse begins.

Grooming is the offenders painstakingly laid plan and it has a two fold purpose. The first is focused on the victim and on overcoming likely resistance. The second is to make sure others are unaware of what he is doing. Therefore grooming is accompanied by isolating the victim from others, especially those who may discover the abuse or those who the child is likely to turn for help or confide in such as mother, siblings or close friends. e.g. A suggestion to chat over the net in secret, when no one else is around, because others would not understand their ‘special relationship’, is a simple and effective way of isolating.

Once isolated and having agreed to keep this initial secret, grooming can begin in earnest. The perpetrator begins with small talk, jokes, pays compliments, confides -in other words engages in positive emotional interaction from which the victim derives pleasure and therefore is likely to prolong the secret.

This far, if the child shows no discomfort, embarrassment or resistance the offender will begin to introduce sexual content into the conversation in a manner and tone that conveys that is it perfectly normal to talk about this without feeling alarmed. He will deliberately put the child at ease and gauge the level to which the child is comfortable.

Whenever the child seems uncomfortable, or resists, the perpetrator will retreat so that the anxiety is reduced and the child feels ‘safe’ and a pleasurable reward is usually offered at this point. During subsequent efforts the child is likely to be less uncomfortable, can be reminded that nothing bad happened last time and that a reward awaits for “a little more cooperation.". One should never underestimate the degree of sophistication that child molesters will use to entice children and the powerful effect of this “reach and retreat” method.

If the abuse is in person and physical then grooming will begin with small, non sexual touches and can end in sexual interaction. If virtual, it usually begins with a conversation, proceeds to introduction of sexually explicit content and further to graphic photographs/images and then finally to possible real life encounters. If the abuser is a pedophile then this information will probably be shared with other pedophiles thus increasing the likelihood of repeated abuse.

[Source: ]

Monday, 1 October 2007

30 Days in September: A play about love and betrayal

Luit Neil Don
28 September 2007, Friday

Mahesh Dattani's play, about love and betrayal, directed by the gutsy and dynamic Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, endeavours to lift the veil of silence, which surrounds child sexual abuse and addresses the issue unflinchingly.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

D’RAMA THE PASSION Players and Surjya, presented Mahesh Dattani’s “30 Days in September,” a play in three acts, at Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati, Assam, from September 21. It was performed for three nights. It treats the sensitive, and generally taboo issue of child sexual abuse, and most importantly, the wrapped up subject of Incest. The play about love and betrayal, directed by the gutsy and dynamic Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, endeavours to lift the veil of silence, which surrounds child sexual abuse and addresses the issue unflinchingly. It builds on the trauma of Mala Khound, who lives with the haunting memories of her abused past. Her abuser - her uncle - subconsciously lives with her all the time, as a part of her dirty reflections. He damages her natural growth, deters her from pursuing her love interests beyond the ominous 30-day period, scars her soul, which finally transformed her into a woman who enjoys being taken advantage of. By marking a daring departure from the norm, the play ensures that we, as a society, no longer take comfort in the routine of uttering the word ‘incest’ in gutless undertones. The play also brings us closer to the reality of abused children - pleasure does form a part of their pain. The consequence of dangerous games can only be dangerous.

As the play progresses, Mala withers under the psychological pressure extorted on her by the abuser. Her mother watches silently, living her own pain and suffering mutely. Exploring the painful problem, Dattani raises valid concerns, and structures a world of optimism, where the wrongs can stand corrected and resurrection of a brutalised faith is possible. But none of this happens without another man’s willingness to help the two women, bury their traumatic past, and find ways of rejuvenating their present. Vikram, Mala’s boyfriend, becomes the agent of change here. He dares to unmask the evil, even at the cost of his love.

He hits the women hard, until they hit rock bottom. Finally, there is no way out but to come up, face the wrongs and dare to correct them, notwithstanding the challenges the process of correction entails. Both Mala and her mother cut his questions short at first, but finally he succeeds in urging Mala to openly accuse her uncle. This leads to Manu’s horrifying revelation of the reason for her silence, and for her taking refuge behind her prayers - the violation of her body as a child by her own brother. Mala now begins to comprehend the true nature of her mother’s agony and suffering.

To say that “30 Days In September” is a very powerful play, and that it derives most of its power from the written word, would not do justice to director Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, who gave a sensitive, strong voice to Dattani’s words. He shaped some exceedingly charged and some very heartrending moments on stage. The most enduring image of course, is the last scene, when Mala is seen on the ramp upfront and the Uncle on the empty frame, taking away with it the last barrier that stood between the mother and daughter, followed by the mother-daughter union in the living room.

Another powerful scene is when Mala is relating her story of abuse to Deepak. This scene is juxtaposed with her uncle behind the frame, enacting the horrific episode. This juxtaposition of the past with the present makes this a highly charged scene.

His use of space has always been on an offbeat design. For director Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, this production marks another milestone in almost a decade of promoting English theatre in the region. His amateur backyard theatre group, D’RAMA the Passion Players, is a pioneer in popularising English language plays in the Northeast region, and has been instrumental in their gaining the acceptance of theatre lovers. This genre of blending Assamese with English was yet another huge success.

For the full article, click here .
(Thanks to Askios for the link to the article)