Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries

February 18, 2016 Comments Off on Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries

Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries 
Elizabeth Dias  Feb. 16, 2016

How one reporter investigated child sex abuse at a major evangelical church

The February issue of Washingtonian Magazine featured an exposé of long-buried sexual abuse of children in a prominent evangelical church network, Sovereign Grace Ministries. Freelance journalist Tiffany Stanley, a 2015 National Magazine Award finalist, spent 10 months uncovering reports of child rape and molestation in Sovereign Grace churches over the last three decades, particularly at the then-flagship Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Her investigation, “The Sex Scandal that Devastated a Suburban Megachurch,” chronicles the inside story of crimes against children in D.C.-area Sovereign Grace churches, explores how church leaders including founder C.J. Mahaney did and did not respond, and recounts how victims’ mothers joined forces to seek justice.

Unlike the hierarchical Catholic Church, evangelical churches often function independently. But their influence is widespread—as Stanley points out, Wayne Grudem, an evangelical theologian at Phoenix Seminary, once described Sovereign Grace Ministries “as an example of the way churches ought to work….

In response to the Washingtonian investigation, executive director of Sovereign Grace Churches Mark Prater pointed TIME to a lengthy statement he made in 2014 denying that Sovereign Grace leaders “conspired to cover up” sexual abuse. “Yes, we have been the target of misinformed critique in both the secular and Christian media, and more will likely come,” he stated. “I pray that God gives us all grace to respond wisely and biblically. But regardless of the public discourse, we are strongly committed to ensuring a safe environment for the children in our churches….

(Tiffany Stanley) The Catholic Church has been taken to task over abuse for decades now. Evangelical ministries are now facing their own abuse crises. In the media, we’re hearing more about these stories. Some of these allegations confront abuse that is decades old. From just the past year, I’m thinking of reports about Josh Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting and Bill Gothard, a Christian homeschooling advocate. I’m also thinking about Buzzfeed’s recent story on Jesus People USA and Kiera Feldman’s 2012 investigation of abuse in a Tulsa megachurch. (Of course, other religions are not immune from sexual abuse scandals either.)

The sad reality is that sexual abuse is widespread everywhere, not just in religious communities. The statistics I saw were one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. The experts I spoke to didn’t say these statistics are worse in evangelical churches, but they did say that abusers could prey on trusting religious communities, which give them access to children. That’s why churches need policies in place to protect children and handle abuse when it happens. That means reporting suspected abuse to authorities immediately, instead of handling it internally. Abuse is a sin, but it’s also a serious crime….
http://time.com/4226444/child-sex-abuse-evangelical-church/

‘Satanic’ murder teens back in court, Prosecutors Rarely Bring Charges In College Rape Cases, Long-forgotten rape evidence, The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

June 19, 2014 Comments Off on ‘Satanic’ murder teens back in court, Prosecutors Rarely Bring Charges In College Rape Cases, Long-forgotten rape evidence, The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

– ‘Satanic’ murder teens back in court
– Prosecutors Rarely Bring Charges In College Rape Cases
– The “Justice Gap” for Sexual Assault Cases
– Long-forgotten rape evidence finally reveals its clues in Northern Virginia lab
– Amy’s Letter Supporting The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014
– The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act
– Text of the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

‘Satanic’ murder teens back in court
South Africa Wednesday 18 June 2014
SOWETO – Two teenage boys accused of murdering two Soweto schoolgirls will appear in the Protea magistrate’s court on Wednesday.

….The girls were found dead in a field in Dobsonville, Soweto, in February.

They were both wearing George Khoza Secondary School uniforms and had cuts on their hands and necks.

Three black candles and two razor blades were found at the scene, leading to speculation that the murders were related to a satanic ritual.
-Sapa  http://www.enca.com/satanic-murder-teens-back-court

Prosecutors Rarely Bring Charges In College Rape Cases
Tyler Kingkade 06/17/2014

….Amid recent accusations that colleges are mishandling reports of sexual assault on campuses, like Reed’s case against the University of Southern California, observers have questioned why colleges are tasked with handling these cases in the first place. They often argue that felony crimes such as these should be left entirely to the criminal justice system — but such arguments assume that the guilty are more likely to be punished under that system, which is rarely the case.

Although roughly 1 in 6 women nationwide are victims of sexual assault — with the rate being higher for women in college, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey — rapists often escape jail time. Only between 8 percent and 37 percent of rapes ever lead to prosecution, according to research funded by the Department of Justice, and just 3 percent to 18 percent of sexual assaults lead to a conviction.

Multiple self-identified sexual assault victims that HuffPost spoke with, in states like California, Colorado, Montana, Massachusetts and New York, said they attempted to press charges against their assailants, some claiming they had confessions, but local prosecutors declined.

….The reality is the criminal justice system often decides against prosecuting cases of acquaintance rape and date rape. Once a case reaches prosecutors, there’s no guarantee of a conviction, let alone a trial or full prosecution. An analysis of the National Violence Against Women Survey by the group End Violence Against Women International concluded that roughly 5 percent of rapes are ever prosecuted. (The analysis sought to account for the underreporting of sexual assault, which resulted in numbers lower than the DOJ’s estimates.)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/17/college-rape-prosecutors-press-charges_n_5500432.html

The “Justice Gap” for Sexual Assault Cases: Future Directions for
Research and Reform
Kimberly A. Lonsway and Joanne Archambault

Abstract

Media coverage often reports “good” news about the criminal justice system’s ability to effectively respond to sexual assault, concluding that the past two decades have seen an increase in rape reporting, prosecution, and conviction. The objective of this article is to examine the validity of such conclusions by critically reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of various data sources and comparing the statistics they produce. These statistics include estimates for sexual assault reporting rates and case outcomes in the criminal justice system. We conclude that such pronouncements are not currently supported by statistical evidence, and we outline some directions for future research and reform efforts to make the “good news” a reality in the United States.

Violence Against Women 18(2) 145–168
Reprints and permission:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1077801212440017
http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/Justice-Gap-paper.pdf

Long-forgotten rape evidence finally reveals its clues in Northern Virginia lab
By Monica Hesse June 16

….The problem is a backlog of untested rape kits, tens of thousands of them, each representing an alleged assault. In every case, evidence was collected from victims after their attacks, but it was never analyzed. Instead it sat on shelves for years, even decades.

There is no federal law requiring rape kits to be tested or tracked, and only a handful of states have enacted their own legislation. Staffing and money shortages have contributed to the backlog; a single kit can cost more than $1,000 to process. Sometimes, if a victim had already identified her attacker, police might not have processed her kit — though it could have contained DNA linking the assailant to other unsolved crimes.

Whatever the reasons, the backlog kept growing as kits were overlooked, ignored and forgotten. Recently, as attention on the issue has increased, that has begun to change. Twelve hundred kits were uncovered in Colorado Springs. Four thousand in Dallas. Twelve thousand in Memphis. And 6,600 in Houston, 5,000 of which were processed last year by Bode, one of several private companies contracting with local jurisdictions in a kit-by-kit effort to bring the backlog down to zero.

….Testing in other jurisdictions has yielded results: New York’s arrest rate for sexual assaults went from 40 percent to 70 percent after its backlog was cleared. When Detroit tested 1,600 of its backlogged kits, the city came back with 127 potential serial rapists, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, which advocates on issues related to the backlog.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/long-forgotten-rape-evidence-finally-reveals-its-clues-in-northern-virginia-lab/2014/06/16/e4aa1aea-d538-11e3-95d3-3bcd77cd4e11_story.html

Amy’s Letter Supporting The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

“I am writing today to give my support to the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014. It is very important that this law get passed as soon as possible.”

“The past eight years of my life have been filled with hope and horror. Life was pretty horrible when I realized that the pictures of my childhood sex abuse were on the Internet for anyone and everyone to see. Imagine the worst most humiliating moments of your life captured for everyone to see forever. Then imagine that as a child you didn’t even really know what was happening to you and you didn’t want it to happen but you couldn’t stop it. You were abused, raped, and hurt and this is something that other people want. They enjoy it. They can’t stop collecting it and asking for it and trading it with other people. And it’s you. It’s your life and your pain that they are enjoying. And it never stops and you are helpless to do anything ever to stop it. That’s horror.”

….“Then we started having problems with the restitution law. Judges sometimes gave me just $100 and sometimes nothing at all. A few judges really got it, like when I was at the Fifth Circuit oral argument two years ago and the judges agreed that the child sex abuse images of me really do cause ongoing and long-term harm. The article by Emily Bazelon in the New York Times also really helped to tell my story so that people can understand what it’s like to live with child pornography every day of your life. I was really happy to discover recently that her article received honorable mention in a contest recognizing excellence in journalism.”

….“My hope turned to horror when the (Supreme) Court decided two weeks ago that restitution was impossible for victims like me and Vicky and so many others. I couldn’t believe that something which is called mandatory restitution (twice) was so hard to figure out. It just seemed like something somewhere was missing. Why, if so many people are committing this serious crime, why are the victims of that crime, who are and were children after all, left out? The Court’s decision was even worse than getting no restitution at all. It was sort of like getting negative restitution. It was a horrible day.”

“This is why I am so happy, and hopeful, that Congress can fix this problem once and for all. Maybe if they put mandatory in the law for a third time judges will get it that restitution really really really must be given to victims! After all this time and all the hearings and appeals and the Supreme Court, I definitely agree that restitution needs improvement and hopefully this bill, the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Restitution Improvement Act of 2014, can finally make restitution happen for all victims of this horrible crime.”….
http://www.childlaw.us/amys-letter-supporting-the-amy-and-vicky-child-pornography-victim-restitution-improvement-act-of-2014/

The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act

….The Amy and Vicky Act creates an effective, balanced restitution process
for victims of child pornography that also responds to the Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline v. United States. It does three things that reflect the nature of these crimes. First, it considers the total harm to the victim, including from individuals who may not yet have been identified. Second, it requires real and timely restitution. Third, it allows defendants who have contributed to the same victim’s harm to spread the restitution cost among themselves….
http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/457b1bfb-0c61-4325-ba97-119d07182904/Amy%20and%20Vicky%20Act%20one-pager.pdf

Text of the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on May 7, 2014, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The text of the bill below is as of May 07, 2014 (Introduced).

S. 2301  Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s2301/text

Saudi Arabia’s Child-Rape Case: Female Activists Fight to Prevent Abuse, Child Abuse in America

February 9, 2013 Comments Off on Saudi Arabia’s Child-Rape Case: Female Activists Fight to Prevent Abuse, Child Abuse in America

Saudi Arabia’s Child-Rape Case: Female Activists Fight to Prevent Abuse

Feb 8, 2013 Christopher Dickey

A monstrous case of abuse in Saudi Arabia shakes the kingdom and strengthens the cause of Saudi women activists.

The torture and murder of 5-year-old Lama Al Ghamdi could hardly have been more horrific—and news of it, repeated in countless Twitter feeds, has enflamed opinion around the world. But the fact that this story of one little girl’s death and one father’s monstrosity went public is also a sign of just how hard women in Saudi Arabia are working to fight the cruel misogyny embedded in the kingdom’s version of Islamic law. And among those women is a daughter of the king….

Fayhan Al Ghamdi, a self-styled Islamic preacher who appears occasionally on local TV shows pontificating about morality, was arrested last year and charged with murder. He told authorities that he had suspected his 5-year old daughter was not a virgin. He had even taken her to a doctor to check. But apparently that had not satisfied him….

Saudi law claims to follow a clear path (sharia) laid out in the Quran, but in practice it’s based on a maze of sayings and traditions (hadith) with as many baffling contradictions as the codes used by lawyers anywhere. According to one reading, a father cannot be held fully accountable for the death of his children; their loss is a punishment for him. So the question arose in the proceedings whether Al Ghamdi could simply pay the mother “blood money” for the loss of her daughter and walk free….

The mother has said she will not accept payment. She has asked that the stepmother be investigated as well, and she has told her advocates that she wants to see her ex-husband executed, which in Saudi Arabia means beheading.

Before the middle of the last decade, domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia were treated mainly as family affairs. Nobody wanted to talk about them, and if police did bother to investigate suspected crimes, which was rare, they found proof very hard to come by.

But it’s important to remember Saudi Arabia is not the only country where domestic abuse is a hidden crime. Indeed, the United States has the worst record in the industrialized world. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost five children a day die from neglect or abuse, but according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, those numbers almost certainly are understated….

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/08/saudi-arabia-s-child-rape-case-female-activists-fight-to-prevent-abuse.html

Child Abuse in America
Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths….Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.

http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics

A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year, The Price of a Stolen Childhood, Bishop, McGeehan announce reintroduction of child sex abuse bills

January 25, 2013 Comments Off on A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year, The Price of a Stolen Childhood, Bishop, McGeehan announce reintroduction of child sex abuse bills

A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year 01/24/2013
Rebecca Solnit Author, ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’
Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)

Here in the United States, where there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, the rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th was treated as an exceptional incident. The story of the alleged rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team was still unfolding, and gang rapes aren’t that unusual here either. Take your pick: some of the 20 men who gang-raped an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the gang rape of a 16-year-old in Richmond, California, was sentenced in October, and four men who gang-raped a 15-year-old near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who gang-raped a 14-year-old in Chicago last fall are still at large.  Not that I actually went out looking for incidents: they’re everywhere in the news, though no one adds them up and indicates that there might actually be a pattern….

A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country. Just to be clear: not nine minutes, but nine seconds. It’s the number-one cause of injury to American women; of the two million injured annually, more than half a million of those injuries require medical attention while about 145,000 require overnight hospitalizations, according to the Center for Disease Control, and you don’t want to know about the dentistry needed afterwards. Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S.

“Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined,” writes Nicholas D. Kristof, one of the few prominent figures to address the issue regularly…..

Increasingly men are becoming good allies — and there always have been some.  Kindness and gentleness never had a gender, and neither did empathy. Domestic violence statistics are down significantly from earlier decades (even though they’re still shockingly high), and a lot of men are at work crafting new ideas and ideals about masculinity and power.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-solnit/violence-against-women_b_2541940.html

The Price of a Stolen Childhood
By EMILY BAZELON  January 24, 2013
The detective spread out the photographs on the kitchen table, in front of Nicole, on a December morning in 2006. She was 17, but in the pictures, she saw the face of her 10-year-old self, a half-grown girl wearing make-up. The bodies in the images were broken up by pixelation, but Nicole could see the outline of her father, forcing himself on her. Her mother, sitting next to her, burst into sobs.

The detective spoke gently, but he had brutal news: the pictures had been downloaded onto thousands of computers via file-sharing services around the world. They were among the most widely circulated child pornography on the Internet. Also online were video clips, similarly notorious, in which Nicole spoke words her father had scripted for her, sometimes at the behest of other men. For years, investigators in the United States, Canada and Europe had been trying to identify the girl in the images….

When she was 16, Nicole told her mother, in a burst of tears, what had been going on at her father’s house. Her father was arrested for child rape. The police asked Nicole whether he took pictures. She said yes, but that she didn’t think he showed them to anyone. A few months later, while her father was out on bail, Nicole was using a computer he gave her to work on a presentation for Spanish class when she came across a file with a vulgar name that she couldn’t open. She showed it to her mother and stepfather, and they brought the computer to the police.

A search detected five deleted video files of child pornography, two of them showing Nicole and her father. In the spring of 2006, he was charged with a new crime — producing the videos — and he fled the country. At this point, the police didn’t realize that Nicole’s father had also distributed the images.

Months later, the police said they had no leads on her father, so Nicole went on television to ask the public for any tips that might help them find him. A police officer in Toronto involved in tracking child pornography around the world saw the broadcast and recognized Nicole as an older version of the girl in the notorious videos. The Toronto officer set off an alert that reached the police in Nicole’s hometown, informing them that she was the victim in a major pornography-distribution case….

Precise numbers of child-pornography viewers are hard to come by. Unicef estimates that there are at least hundreds of thousands of Web sites with child pornography worldwide. Child-pornography consumers are even more likely to swap with one another via hidden networks. Using a tool developed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2009, police have logged close to 22 million public I.P. addresses offering child-pornography pictures or videos via peer-to-peer file sharing, which allows users to download content from one computer to another; almost 10 million of the I.P. addresses were located in the United States. Many of the users shared only a single illegal image, perhaps downloaded inadvertently, but others offered collections of hundreds or thousands of pictures.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/magazine/how-much-can-restitution-help-victims-of-child-pornography.html

Bishop, McGeehan announce reintroduction of child sex abuse bills
Rep. Michael P. McGeehan
173rd Legislative District
Philadelphia County

HARRISBURG, Jan. 23 – Saying the move is long overdue andflanked by high-profile reform advocates, state Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Michael P. McGeehan, both D-Phila.,today announced a renewed push to update archaic statute-of-limitations laws in child sexual abuse cases at a Capitol Rotunda news conference.

Bishop and McGeehan said their respective bills are patterned after ones they introduced in the last two-year legislative session but died after being inexplicably bottled up in the committee process.

Bishop has reintroduced her legislation, now known as H.B. 237, which would abolish the statute of limitations on criminal charges and civil lawsuits in cases of child sexual abuse.

“Child sexual abuse victims are slowly beginning to break the barriers of silence; however, they still face a daunting procedural obstacle — the statute of limitations,” said Bishop, who came out last year as a victim of child sexual abuse. “Instead of suppressing legislation that would lift the statute of limitations, we should be voting these game-changing bills out of committee and the House, so more victims can seek justice.”

McGeehan has introduced H.B. 238 that would suspend any expired statute of limitations for two years in child sex abuse cases, providing a window of opportunity for those victims to file a civil lawsuit. His bill also would seek to make child sexual abuse an exception to the sovereign immunity defense that shields public officials from being sued.

“The effects of child sex abuse are felt everywhere,” McGeehan said. “We are all victims. The scandals which have rocked school districts and dioceses across the country, Penn State, the Boy Scouts — the problem clearly is not going away.

http://www.pahouse.com/McGeehan/PAHouseNews.asp?doc=28629

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