10-31-19 Kosovo rape: Teacher and policeman accused in teenager case
Kosovo prosecutors have charged six people over the alleged rape of a teenager that has shocked the Balkans. The teenager is said to have been abused by a teacher and then by a police officer over two years from 2017, when she was 16. Prosecutors opened the case following reports by an investigative website. Police said in February they had arrested a teacher, a policeman and a gynaecologist accused of performing an illegal abortion on the girl. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci described the case at the time as "tragic". The case, first reported by the Insajderi website, provoked outrage in Kosovo, leading to a women's rights protest outside police headquarters in the capital, Pristina. On Wednesday, prosecutors said six suspects, including a teacher and a policeman, had been charged in connection with the case, AFP news agency reports. They were indicted "on suspicion of having committed the offences of sexual abuse, abuse of their position... and inducement to unlawful pregnancy", prosecutors said. The girl, according to Insajderi's report, was allegedly first raped in 2017 by her teacher in a town west of the capital. When she reported the case to police, the girl was allegedly raped repeatedly by the officer assigned to investigate the allegations, the website said. When the girl became pregnant, she was allegedly driven to Pristina in January this year and forced to have an abortion. The teacher and the policeman have denied the allegations, according to reports. When Insajderi reported the case, hundreds of women took to the streets of Kosovo, demanding justice for victims of sexual violence. Waving placards and chanting slogans against the police and judiciary, protesters accused authorities of failing to safeguard women's rights.
10-25-19 Maine student wins court battle over 'rapist in school' note
A US judge has blocked the suspension of a high school girl who was punished for posting a note at school warning of a "rapist" in their midst. In September Aela Mansmann, 15, was accused of bullying by school officials in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, after she posted notes in the girl's washroom. But on Thursday a judge issued a temporary stay on the suspension due to concerns over free speech rights. A lawsuit filed by the girl's family against the school is still pending. The case began on 16 September after Aela posted notes in two bathrooms reading: "There's a rapist in the school and you know who it is." After another student brought the note to school administrators, they investigated and identified Aela through camera footage. She and two other girls were suspended on 4 October after officials determined the behaviour constituted bullying. The district's investigation revealed that one male student felt targeted by the notes and was ostracised by his peers, forcing him to miss classes. In an interview with CBS, Aela said her note was never intended to single out anyone as a rapist, but was rather a general criticism of the school's culture. Her suspension led about 50 students in the 550-pupil school to stage a walkout protest on 7 October. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the school district near Portland, Maine's largest city, over the three-day suspension. It argued that the girl had simply taken a "public stance as an ally for victims and survivors of sexual violence". In the order temporarily blocking the suspension on Thursday, US District Court Judge Lance Walker cited "a fair likelihood" that the suspension will ultimately be overturned on the grounds of free speech and Title IX - a federal law that bans gender discrimination in education. The notes, the judge wrote, were "neither frivolous nor fabricated, took place within the limited confines of the girls' bathroom, related to a matter of concern to the young women who might enter the bathroom and receive the message, and [were] not disruptive of school discipline". He added that students have the right to feel safe knowing that a "student who expresses a comparable view in similar fashion will be denied access to school simply because her viewpoint offends the sensibilities of school administrators".
10-17-19 Cyntoia Brown-Long: 'It took me years to realise I was a trafficking victim'
Cyntoia Brown-Long was just 16 when she was jailed for life for shooting dead an estate agent who had picked her up for sex. She had run away from home and was being sent out onto the streets to make money for a pimp when she killed 43-year-old Johnny Allen. After being convicted of murder in 2004, Cyntoia was told she wouldn't be eligible for release until she was in her 60s. But she was freed in August this year after being granted clemency by the governor of Tennessee. A campaign to get her released was backed by celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian-West. Now 31, Cyntoia, from Tennessee, has spoken about her life and says it took her "many, many years" to realise she was a victim of abuse. "I was in my late twenties when I actually realised that I was a trafficking victim," she told CBS News "For so long, you know I had thought, 'No, they said that I was a teenage prostitute. I knew what I was doing'." Cyntoia had a tough upbringing. She ran away from home and got involved with a pimp called Kutthroat who she saw as her boyfriend. But he sexually abused her and sent her out onto the streets to earn him money. Cyntoia says she regrets running away from home because of the pain it caused her mum. "One of my biggest regrets is the way that I hurt my mother," she said. "You know she tried so hard. She tried everything that she knew to try." Cyntoia says she's questioned why she was so vulnerable and got sucked in by her pimp. "You know there's a certain element where you're just vulnerable because you're a child your mind is just naturally impressionable in that way. "But it was like 'Why was it just so easy for this man to come along and in the space of a few weeks I was doing these things?'"
10-12-19 Data trial identifies vulnerable children who may otherwise be missed
A trial using data to prevent child abuse helped a UK police force detect a child gang and drastically cut the time it takes child protection experts to review cases. High profile abuse cases such as the death of 4-year old Daniel Pelka led to the creation of Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs to help agencies including the police and social care groups more effectively “join the dots” on the fragmented data they hold on children. But Ravi Gogna at defence firm BAE Systems says such hubs don’t help in many cases. “That really only works for the red flag events. If something really big, really bad happens, you hit your threshold of risk and data sharing occurs. “But what we’d learned from the Daniel Pelka case and a number of other cases is, actually, a lot of kids don’t have one big red flag event, they have lots of small events.” The company partnered with Gloucestershire Constabulary in a £250,000 pilot project to take siloed data from police, social care, education and health systems, analyse it automatically and flag cases to child protection experts. In total, it looked at 100 indicators of risk, such as poor school attendance. The technology identified children who might be candidates for early intervention by agencies, before abuse occurred. The data also discovered a gang of children in the area, the older members of which were committing crimes. “We accidentally found a gang. We weren’t setting out to look for gangs,” said Gogna, speaking at New Scientist Live in London yesterday. He said the police took the decision not to arrest children in the gang who had committed crimes, but instead to speak at assemblies at the schools they attend. The pilot also offers the prospect of saving police and other agencies’ time, cutting the time it takes to review an individual’s case from 2.5 hours manually by humans to 15 minutes by machine. Gloucestershire Constabulary told New Scientist: “Our officers were very impressed by the potential of the technology to help us protect children.”
10-11-19 1,700 Roman Catholic priests and child sexual abuse
Nearly 1,700 Roman Catholic priests and other clergy members the church considers to have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living without supervision by religious authorities or law enforcement. More than 160 still work or volunteer in churches; about 190 have professional licenses to work in fields like education, medicine, and counseling where they have access to children.
10-11-19 Abuse: Blocking child porn online
Authorities are stepping up the pressure on encrypted messaging after an explosive rise in child sexual abuse imagery on the internet, said Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Gabriel Dance in The New York Times. The Times reported that tech companies flagged a staggering “45 million photos and videos as child sex abuse material last year,” including “horrific” images of kids as young as 3 or 4. Two decades ago, there were about 3,000 reports of such images on the web. Today, Facebook’s Messenger app “accounted for nearly two-thirds of reports,” and law enforcement is concerned that the app’s impending move to encryption could make it easier for child predators to conceal their online activities. In a letter to Facebook last week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr asked the company to hold off its encryption plans “until it figures out a way to provide government access to the services for investigative purposes,” said Robert McMillan in The Wall Street Journal. Don’t hold your breath. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged that extending encryption “will come at a cost to user safety,” but Facebook, like other tech companies, argues that open government access “could ultimately be misused by hackers or spy agencies to steal data from consumers.” “Child exploitation is certainly an issue outside of Messenger,” said Damon Beres in OneZero.Medium.com, but “no other company bears as much responsibility for the spread of this content as Facebook.” Now Facebook threatens to make the situation even worse with encryption. There’s a simple way to solve this. “We take for granted that you can send images, links, and videos on Messenger, but what if you couldn’t?” Limiting Messenger to text solves the problems. Yes, other companies might create a Messenger-like service, “but it would not be supported by the dominant social network.” No doubt “banning all link and image sharing in Messenger will find favor in, for example, authoritarian governments,” said Casey Newton in TheVerge.com. This is not a problem unique to Facebook. In fact, “thanks to Facebook’s efforts in particular, law enforcement detects millions of cases in which terrible images are being shared around the world.” The tech platforms have worked actively to limit child porn, and their reports have led to thousands of arrests; Facebook’s work on this has been lauded by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Choosing between private communications and access for law enforcement to block terrorism and child porn is a truly agonizing dilemma. As the world moves inexorably toward encrypted communication, “we lack easy methods for balancing the risks versus the benefits.” But Facebook at a minimum has a responsibility to try.
10-11-19 Censoring kids’ books
Turkish authorities have decided that the best-selling children’s book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls could have a “detrimental influence” on young minds and so should be subject to the same restrictions as pornography—concealed in bookshops and sold only to adults. The illustrated book, which has been translated into 47 languages since its publication in 2016, celebrates the achievements of 100 real-life women, from Coco Chanel to Rosa Parks to Catherine the Great. “When a government is scared by a children’s book promoting equality, that means that promoting these messages through children’s literature can have and is having an impact,” said the book’s co-author Francesca Cavallo. “It makes me even more motivated to keep fighting every day.”
10-11-19 Kmart abduction case: Australian jailed for molesting girl
An Australian man who kidnapped a child from a shopping centre and molested her in remote scrubland has been jailed. Sterling Mervyn Free, 27, lured the seven-year-old girl out of a Kmart store in Brisbane last December. He then drove her to an isolated place where he sexually assaulted her, before returning her about an hour later. A judge called the attack "every parent's worst nightmare" and jailed Free for a maximum of eight years - a sentence which has drawn controversy. Speaking in the Brisbane District Court, Judge Julie Dick said Free's abduction of the girl form a toy aisle was "chilling, opportunistic and predatory". But she stopped short of legally classifying him as a serious violent offender, meaning Free will be eligible for parole in 2021. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the sentence was "grossly inadequate" and called on Queensland state lawmakers to intervene. "To have this young girl treated the way that she was by this animal is unacceptable and that he wouldn't go to jail for a long period of time just doesn't reflect community standards," he said. Prosecutors told the court the attack had occurred while the girl's parents were busy doing Christmas shopping. The court was shown CCTV footage of Free lingering in the toy aisles, before exiting the store with the girl following him. He was arrested two days later and charged with kidnapping and indecent assault. He pleaded guilty to the charges in July. The court heard that Free, who has two children, was addicted to pornography and had suffered abuse himself. He apologised to his victim and said he accepted his punishment, saying in a statement on Friday: "I deeply regret the harm that I have done." (Webmaster's comment: So What! Eighty years would have been more just!)