3-25-20 Cho Ju-bin: South Korea chatroom sex abuse suspect named after outcry
A man accused of leading a group that blackmailed girls into sharing sexual videos - which were then posted in pay-to-view chatrooms - has been named after an outcry in South Korea. At least 10,000 people used the chatrooms, with some paying up to $1,200 (£1,000) for access. Some 74 people, including 16 underage girls, were exploited. A police committee took the unusual step of naming Cho Ju-bin, 24, after five million people signed petitions. "I apologise to those who were hurt by me," Cho said as he was led away from a Seoul police station on Wednesday. "Thank you for putting a brake on the life of a devil that could not be stopped." He did not respond when reporters asked if he admitted the charges. He is accused of abuse, threats and coercion, and of violating the child protection act, the privacy act and the sexual abuse act. As reported by Quartz, customers paid to access the so-called "nth rooms", where extorted content from underage girls was uploaded. Fees ranged from $200 to $1,200. According to Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, each of the eight "nth rooms" hosted videos from three to four girls who had been blackmailed by chatroom operators. The girls were active on chat apps, or Twitter, and engaged in prostitution or sexting for money. The chatroom operators contacted the girls, promising modelling or escort jobs. They were then directed to a Telegram account where the operator extracted personal details which were used to blackmail them. One schoolgirl - speaking to Kim Hyun Jung on South Korea's CBS radio - said she was approached online after looking for work. After being promised money and a phone, she was told to send pictures of herself, followed by sexual abuse videos. The victim said there were at least 40 videos in total. "He already had my face, my voice, my personal information," the victim said. "I was afraid that he would threaten me with that information if I said I would quit."
3-23-20 South Africa: 'Our children are dying, but President Ramaphosa doesn't care'
In our series of letters from African journalists, South African filmmaker and writer Serusha Govender reports on the growing anger fuelled by a spate of child murders. Passing by Cape Town's Parliament Square earlier this month, I caught sight of Fadiel Adams camped outside on the final days of a hunger strike. This was a father making a desperate stand against what he felt was the government's lack of interest in combating the recent spate of child murders in the Western Cape province. The child murder rate has been high for some time in South Africa, but since the beginning of the year, several killings close to Cape Town have drawn nationwide fury and calls for immediate action. The murder of seven-year-old Tazne van Wyk in early February was the spark. Tazne went missing on 7 February. Her body was found two weeks later after her suspected murderer led police to the storm drain where he said he had disposed of it. The suspect, a violent multiple offender had been released on parole. He was in prison for the kidnapping and murder of another child. Mr Adams ended his hunger strike after six days, once he had handed a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa's secretary, but his campaign is far from over. He is not convinced that the president will do anything. He accused the president of not caring, adding that "this government has failed all of us". "We are dying here, our children are dying," said Mr Adams. "If Ramaphosa really cared he would have made an immediate directive… I don't condone violence or burning things, but we won't stop raising this [issue]. If we have to shut down this whole city to make our point next time then we will." After Tazne's body was found, Mr Ramaphosa visited her community in Elsies River and apologised. He said that the accused should never have been given parole, adding that he knew how the community felt and that urgent action would be taken. His words were reminiscent of his speech to protesting crowds outside parliament after a 19-year-old student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, was murdered by a postal worker last year.
3-16-20 Church sexual abuse: French priest jailed for five years
A French priest has been jailed for five years for sexually abusing dozens of children in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. Bernard Preynat, 74, admitted abusing boy scouts while a scout leader in Lyon. During his trial, he had told the court he had not understood how serious or grave his crimes were. "It took me time to learn it was wrong and condemned given the age of the children," he said in January. Preynat assaulted at least 80 young boys between the ages of seven and 15. Ten of his victims testified at the four-day trial. The abuse took place between 1971 and 1991. Prosecutors sought an eight-year jail term, and accused Preynat of "shattering" his victims' lives. Last July, Mr Preynat was defrocked - stripped of his clerical status - after a church tribunal ruled he had committed "criminal acts of sexual character against minors under [the age of] 16". Representatives of victims also accused Preynat's superior, Philippe Barbarin, of covering up the abuse. Mr Barbarin, who became archibishop of Lyon in 2002, was originally handed a six-month suspended sentence in March 2019 for not reporting Preynat's crimes, but this conviction was overturned by an appeals court in January. At the time his lawyer hailed the verdict, saying the court had judged "the cardinal never intended to obstruct justice". Mr Barbarin has admitted he had known of "rumours" about Preynat as far back as 2010, but that he only became aware of abuse after a conversation with a victim in 2014. He later informed the Vatican of the allegations, and removed Preynat from his position - but never informed police. The allegations then became public in 2015. Pope Francis accepted Mr Barbarin's resignation earlier this month. (Webmaster's comment: Given the damage he did the sentence should have been at least 80 years!)
3-13-20 France: Former surgeon goes on trial on child rape and assault charges
A retired French surgeon has gone on trial accused of raping and sexually assaulting children. Joël Le Scouarnec, 69, is charged with abusing his two nieces, a neighbour's daughter and a patient. But prosecutors suspect he may have abused as many as 349 children between 1989 and 2017. He has admitted assault but denied the rape charges. The trial in the south-western town of Saintes is the start of what could be France's biggest paedophilia scandal. If found guilty, Mr Le Scouarnec faces up to 20 years in prison. The trial is being held behind closed doors, following a plaintiff's request. Mr Le Scouarnec was arrested in 2017 after his neighbour's daughter had told her family about the alleged assault. Investigators said they later searched his house, finding images of child abuse and a notebook detailing his sexual assaults.
3-12-20 Pakistan Zainab murder: New law aims to catch child abusers
Pakistan's parliament has passed a new bill against child abuse, two years after the murder of a seven-year-old sparked deadly riots and public debate. The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill is named after Zainab Ansari, whose raped body was found in 2018. The legislation provides for a dedicated agency to respond more quickly when children go missing. Zainab's murder was one of a string of such attacks in Kasur city, and sparked outrage and protests in the country. At least two people were killed in the rioting which broke out at the time. The man convicted of her murder - who had also been found guilty of similar crimes against six more girls - was executed later that year. The bill has already been passed by the upper house of parliament and will become law after formal assent is granted by the president. The legislation has been widely welcomed by human rights activists, but questions remain over how much impact it will have. Zainab's dead body was discovered on a rubbish dump on 9 January 2018. She had gone missing the evening before. Protests quickly broke out in the area, with locals accusing police of inaction and failing to make arrests in a string of other attacks on children. Zainab's killer, Imran Ali, was arrested some three weeks later, with the help of CCTV footage which was obtained by Zainab's relatives. The debate that Zainab's killing triggered brought pressure on the government to strengthen legislation on wider child rights, including the provision of a safety net for vulnerable children involved in begging and child labour. But the latest legislation is confined to sexual abuse and murder only. It provides for the setting up of an agency to run a dedicated helpline for missing child alerts, and makes it incumbent on local police chiefs to respond within two hours of the alert, failing which they could face disciplinary action. It also requires the police to complete their investigation in such cases within three months. But questions remain over practical, on-the-ground arrangements.
2-26-20 Six-year-old girl arrested at Florida school
Police bodycam footage released on 25 February has captured the moment a visibly distressed child was arrested at her school in Orlando, Florida in September 2019. The six-year-old girl was restrained with zip ties and escorted to a waiting police car after misbehaving in class. Lawyers for her family at Smith and Eulo Law Firm told the BBC that the family chose to release the footage because they wanted to show how the arrest unfolded. The person whose bodycam captured the ordeal was fired after an internal investigation by the Orlando Police Department. Officer Dennis Turner had not followed the correct protocol, which states that a police officer must have their supervisor's approval to arrest any child under the age of 12.
2-25-20 Peter Nygard: FBI raids fashion mogul HQ in sex trafficking probe
US agents have raided fashion executive Peter Nygard's Manhattan offices as part of a sex-trafficking investigation. The FBI and New York police executed a search warrant on Tuesday, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office said. The raid comes as Mr Nygard, 77, is facing a sexual assault and trafficking lawsuit, filed by 10 women and girls earlier this month. He has denied allegations of wrongdoing. The Finnish-Canadian multimillionaire, who has been linked to Prince Andrew, has been the subject of an investigation by the child exploitation FBI task force and New York police for the last five months. He was reportedly the subject of a previous FBI investigation for sex trafficking in 2015 and 2017. A spokesman for Mr Nygard said the fashion executive, who owns Nygard International brands, "welcomes the federal investigation and expects his name to be cleared. He has not been charged, is not in custody and is cooperating with the investigation." Mr Nygard is estimated to be worth upwards of $700m (£538m). Brands owned by his company include Bianca Nygard, Tan Jay, ALIA and SLIMS. The sex abuse lawsuit was filed on 13 February by 10 unnamed female plaintiffs against Mr Nygard and his associated companies. The lawsuit accuses him of sexually assaulting "young, impressionable, and often impoverished children and women" after luring them with cash and false promises of lucrative modelling opportunities. Some of the plaintiffs are minors. Mr Nygard is accused of using alcohol, drugs, force or other means of coercion "to engage in commercial sex acts with these children and women". Most of the assault and sex trafficking allegations took place in the Bahamas, where Mr Nygard has lived for years. The lawsuit, which details complaints dating back four decades, also claims Mr Nygard would bribe officials to hide evidence of his crimes.
2-21-20 Bankruptcy for Boy Scouts
Facing a flood of sexual abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy this week in a bid to limit the financial damage to the 110-year-old organization. Over the past decade, lawsuits and investigations have revealed how generations of boys were preyed on by abusive troop leaders. By the Scouts’ own reckoning, more than 12,000 children were abused by some 7,800 former leaders from 1946 through 2016. The Boy Scouts estimates that up to 5,000 victims will seek compensation; bankruptcy allows the group to temporarily freeze those cases and keep operating. The organization could be forced to sell some of its many property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to create a victims’ fund that could top $1 billion.
2-21-20 Quaden Bayles: Australian boy in bullying video receives global support
People around the world have rallied behind a nine-year-old Australian boy after a video of his deep distress over being bullied went viral. Yarraka Bayles posted the clip of her son, Quaden, crying after he was targeted at school for his dwarfism. "This is what bullying does," she says in the video, in which her son also says he wants to end his life. The clip, viewed over 14 million times, has triggered an outpouring of support and #WeStandWithQuaden messages. Celebrities including actor Hugh Jackman and basketball player Enes Kanter have spoken out, while parents in other countries have shared video messages from their children. Jackman told Quaden "you are stronger than you know, mate" and called on everyone to "be kind". In the confronting six-minute video, posted on Tuesday, Quaden's mother describes the relentless bullying experienced by her son every day. The family, who are Aboriginal Australian, live in Queensland. "I've just picked my son up from school, witnessed a bullying episode, rang the principal, and I want people to know - parents, educators, teachers - this is the effect that bullying has," Ms Bayle says as her son sobs. "Every single... day, something happens. Another episode, another bullying, another taunt, another name-calling. "Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?" The words #StopBullying were trending on Friday as people described their own experiences and urged Quaden to "stay strong". Children in different countries have also posted messages of friendship. US comedian Brad Williams, who has the same dwarfism condition of Achondroplasia, said he had raised more than $130,000 (£100,000) in less than a day to send the family to Disneyland. "This isn't just for Quaden, this is for anyone who has been bullied in their lives and told they weren't good enough," he wrote on the fundraising page. "Let's show Quaden and others, that there is good in the world and they are worthy of it." Eric Trump, the son of the US president, described the video as "absolutely heartbreaking". Meanwhile basketball star Enes Kanter tweeted "the world is behind you" and invited the family to an NBA game. Sports teams in Australia have also rallied behind Quaden, with the indigenous rugby league side inviting him to be lead the team at a match this weekend.
2-19-20 Boy Scouts of America: Why is it filing for bankruptcy?
'It's the largest paedophile ring on Earth'. Attorneys representing nearly 800 men who are suing the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse held a press conference. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has filed for bankruptcy as it faces increasing legal costs over sexual abuse cases. A spokesman said the move would make sure that the organisation would be kept running and that compensation would be paid to victims. The group has more than two million members across the United States but the membership has been declining. Chief executive Roger Mosby said in a statement: "The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologises to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. "We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children."
2-18-20 Boy Scouts: A wholesome US institution poisoned by predators
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) - one of the largest youth organisations in the US - has filed for bankruptcy amid an avalanche of sexual abuse allegations. The century-old group became as American as the Norman Rockwell paintings that immortalise their three-fingered salutes. But its considerable membership - 2.4 million youth participants - is about half what it was in the 1970s, a decline that tracks mounting scrutiny surrounding the Scouts. So what is behind the rise - and fall - of this American institution? Founded in 1910, the non-profit claims 2.2 million youth members and 800,000 volunteers across the country. According to BSA, more than 130 million young people have participated in Scouts programmes since its inception. It boasts famous alumni like ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates.Considered a bastion of traditional American values, the BSA's self-declared "foundation of scouting" includes an oath to fulfil one's "duty to God and my country", with a mission to "prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices". But behind the camp fire singalongs lurked "the largest paedophile ring on earth", a lawyer representing alleged victims said last year. The BSA has been beset with a deluge of sexual misconduct allegations. In February 2019, as reports emerged that BSA was considering filing for bankruptcy, the Abused in Scouting group used television ads to reach Boy Scouts across the country and found nearly 2,000 people with complaints, including one in every state, according to the New York Times. The organisation now faces hundreds of claims directed at nearly 8,000 Boy Scout leaders. And such controversy isn't entirely new. A 1935 article in the New York Times detailed files on hundreds of people, labelled as "degenerates" who had served as leaders with BSA. The organisation says its transition to bankruptcy is intended to build compensation for victims of sex abuse. "The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologises to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programmes to harm innocent children," chief executive Roger Mosby said in a statement.
2-18-20 Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy over sex abuse lawsuits
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has filed for bankruptcy protection in a move that the group says will allow it to build a compensation fund for sex abuse victims. The move follows a number of lawsuits filed against the organisation over claims of sexual abuse, alleging it failed to prevent hundreds of cases. As a result of the move, all civil lawsuits against it are put on hold. The group is struggling with declining membership as well as abuse claims. "The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologises to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children," chief executive Roger Mosby said in a statement. Court papers filed in Delaware listed liabilities of up to $1bn (£768m) and assets of as much as $10bn, reports say. The filing was made under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code which allows the group to keep operating and pay its creditors over time. The bankruptcy allows the organisation to bring all of the lawsuits into one court and try to negotiate a settlement, rather than using its funds to fight each case in court. The group said it was setting up a trust fund to compensate victims. "While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process - with the proposed trust structure - will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA's important mission," Mr Mosby said in a statement. The BSA has 261 councils which operate local troops and own assets including land in many states, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. Tuesday's bankruptcy move is designed to protect those councils, which hold about 70% of all BSA assets, according to the WSJ. In its statement, the BSA said the councils, which are legally separate and financially independent of the national organisation, had not filed for bankruptcy.
2-14-20 Hell dorm
Lawrence Ray moved into his daughter’s dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in 2010 and used sham “therapy sessions” to ensnare her roommates over the next eight years, prosecutors said this week. Ray, 60, allegedly extorted $1 million from five victims and made $500,000 off one woman he forced into prostitution. He’d recently left prison when he arrived at the elite campus posing as a “father figure” who could rescue “broken” teens, prosecutors said. He pried into their private lives and mental-health struggles, then forced students to admit to crimes using sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, violence, and threats of legal action. He later forced them to do unpaid manual labor on his North Carolina family property. Ray was once an FBI informant and close friend of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who called Ray a “psychotic con man.”
2-14-20 Famous pedophile on trial
French prosecutors this week asked possible victims of author Gabriel Matzneff to come forward and testify in an investigation into his promotion of pedophilia. Matzneff, 83, won fame in the 1970s and ’80s for his essays in which he described stalking schoolgirls and seducing teenagers. In an appearance on a literary TV show in 1990, he boasted about having sex with 11- and 12-year-old boys in the Philippines. The French seemed to realize only last month that Matzneff was describing crimes, after one of his victims, Vanessa Springora, published a memoir telling how Matzneff groomed her when she was 14 and he was 50. Matzneff is now hiding out on the Italian Riviera. The investigation, he told The New York Times, has made him feel like “a dead man walking.”
2-10-20 ‘I was raped at 14, and the video ended up on a porn site’
Last year Rose Kalemba wrote a blog post explaining how hard it had been - when she was raped as a 14-year-old girl - to get a video of the attack removed from a popular porn website. Dozens of people then contacted her to say that they were facing the same problem today. The nurse stopped at the doorway leading out of Rose's hospital room and turned to face her. "I'm sorry this happened to you," she said, her voice shaking. "My daughter was raped too." Rose looked at the nurse. She couldn't be older than 40, Rose thought, her daughter must be young, like me. She thought back to the morning after the assault, to the conversations with the emotionless policeman and the clinical doctor. Everyone had used the phrase "alleged" when referring to the violent, hours-long overnight attack that Rose had described to them. With the exception of her father and grandmother, most of her relatives hadn't believed her either. With the nurse it was different. "She believed me," Rose says. It was a small crack of hope - someone recognising and acknowledging what had happened to her. A wave of relief washed over her, which felt like it could be the start of her recovery. But soon hundreds of thousands of people would see the rape for themselves and from those viewers she received no sympathy. (Webmaster's comment: 96 percent of pedophiles are men.) A decade later, Rose Kalemba brushes her thick thigh-length black hair at the bathroom mirror, twirling the ends with her fingers to form natural ringlets. This wouldn't have been the case in the months after her attack - all the mirrors in her home had to be covered with blankets, as she couldn't bear to catch her reflection. She is now 25 and she has organised routines of self-care into her daily life. Taking care of her hair is one. Combing it takes time and effort, it's almost an act of meditation. She knows she has beautiful hair, people comment on it all the time. Every morning she also makes herself a cup of cacao, a pure, raw form of chocolate that she believes has healing qualities, and writes down her goals in a diary.
2-9-20 Ukraine's teen bullying drama that shattered taboos and stirred a nation
It has become a TV hit, a drama that has shattered taboos and given Ukraine's teenagers the courage to open up about their lives. Early Swallows tells stories about teenagers struggling with bullying and online harassment; they question their sexual identity and even consider taking their own lives. Issues like these are rarely dealt with in Ukraine in public. Six million viewers watch the show on TV and millions more have seen it online. A key part of the programme is a non-governmental mental health helpline detailed at the end of every episode. Within the first month of the drama going out, the number of calls to the helpline went up by 600%. The series gave 16-year old Maxim from western Ukraine the encouragement he needed to come out as gay. "First I talked to my father, then I told others. I don't care if anyone doesn't like my lifestyle," he told the BBC. "Luckily, people around me didn't really have a problem." Maxim says he knows many others who came out as a result of the TV series. Early Swallows - Pershi Lastivky in Ukrainian - is based on the lives of teenagers in a secondary school class. Five teens are subjected to online harassment from an anonymous user pretending to be their friend. They struggle with various forms of bullying and lack parental support. One of the girls ends up taking her own life. When one of the episodes covered a boy struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality, it was pretty much the first time that adolescent LGBT identity had been portrayed on Ukrainian TV. Another storyline involves a teenage girl with alcoholic parents who has a speech disability. What emerges is the sense that the more lonely a teenager feels, the more vulnerable they are to online harassment. The series has already been hailed as a wake-up call for parents.
2-8-20 Didier Gailhaguet: French ice skating boss quits amid sex abuse scandal
The long-time head of France's ice sports federation has resigned amid a sexual abuse scandal in figure skating. Didier Gailhaguet said he was leaving with his head held high and without bitterness at the "injustice" of being forced out by the sports minister. Several former skating champions have come forward to accuse three trainers of sexually abusing them as teenagers. Mr Gailhaguet is not personally implicated. The alleged abuse happened from the end of the 1970s to the 1990s. Speaking after a meeting of the French Ice Sports Federation (FFSG) council in Paris, Mr Gailhaguet, 66, said: "I have taken the wise decision to resign from my post... I have taken this decision with composure, with dignity, but without any bitterness before this injustice." On Monday, French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu asked Mr Gailhaguet to resign. He led the federation almost continuously since 1998 - there was a hiatus between 2004 and 2007 after the International Skating Union suspended him over the judging scandal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. In an autobiography released last week, champion figure skater Sarah Abitbol alleged her former coach Gilles Beyer abused her when she was a teenager. Ms Abitbol, who is now 44, said she was aged 15 when it first happened. Mr Beyer has admitted to "intimate" and "inappropriate" relations with her, and said he was "sincerely sorry". French prosecutors said on Tuesday they would investigate the allegations. Three other skaters have accused Mr Beyer and two other coaches - who are all from the FFSG - of abusing and raping them when they were minors. Jean-Roland Racle denies the accusations and Michel Lotz has not commented. Ms Abitbol and her skating partner, Stéphane Bernadis, are 10-time French national champions, and have won seven European medals. At the 2000 World Championships, the two became the first French pair to win a world medal in nearly 70 years. But in her book, Such a Long Silence, Ms Abitbol alleged that she was raped by Mr Beyer between 1990 and 1992. "He started to do horrible things leading to sexual abuse," she told L'Obs magazine. "It was the first time a man touched me."
2-5-20 Sarah Abitbol: French ice skating head refuses to resign
The head of France's ice skating federation has refused to resign amid a growing sexual assault scandal. Ministers called on Didier Gailhaguet to step down after champion figure skater Sarah Abitbol accused her old coach Gilles Beyer of sexually assaulting her when she was 15. But Mr Gailhaguet refused, saying he "absolutely did not protect" the coach. Mr Beyer has admitted to "intimate" and "inappropriate" relations with her, and said he was "sincerely sorry". In an autobiography released last week, Ms Abitbol alleges that he first raped her when she was a teenager. Prosecutors in France have now opened an investigation. As part of their investigation, prosecutors said they would try to establish if anyone else had been abused. Three other skaters have accused Mr Beyer and two more coaches - who are all from the official French Ice-Skating Federation (FFSG) - of abusing and raping them when they were minors. Jean-Roland Racle denies the accusations and Michel Lotz has not commented. France's top athletes signed a letter supporting Ms Abitbol on Wednesday, saying they were "disgusted... but not surprised". "We can no longer be silent! It is time to act collectively and realize that breaking the silence also means serving sport," the letter reads. It was written by members of the Commission of High-Level Athletes (CAHN), part of France's Olympic Committee (CNOSF). Ms Abitbol and her skating partner, Stéphane Bernadis, are 10-time French national champions, and have won seven European medals. At the 2000 World Championships, the two became the first French pair to win a world medal in nearly 70 years. The former skater, who is now 44, rejected Mr Beyer's apology and said that she wanted accountability for "all those who covered up [the crimes] both in the club and the federation".
2-4-20 Homeless US student population 'highest in over a decade'
The number of homeless students in the US is the highest in over a decade according to a new study. Most of the 1.5 million homeless schoolchildren stayed with other families or friends after losing their homes. But 7% lived in abandoned buildings or cars, the report by the National Centre for Homeless Education showed. It is often caused by job insecurity, unaffordable housing, domestic violence and recently the opioid crisis. Living without a fixed address seriously impacts children's education and health. Less than a third of homeless students were able to read adequately, and scored even lower in mathematics and science, the report showed. The most recent data was recorded in 2017-18 and was more than double the nearly 680,000 homeless students reported in 2004-05, the director of National Centre for Homeless Education told the New York Times. The research measures the number of children in schools who report being homeless at some point during an academic year as as such does not show the total population of homeless young people in the US. Homelessness is a growing problem in the US, usually linked to the national housing crisis. Millions of people spend more than half their income on housing, and many report they cannot afford to buy a house. Increasing rents and a housing shortage has forced thousands of people in California to live in caravans or inadequate housing. A changing economy, with factories closing down or the rise of the insecure gig economy, also leaves parents unable to pay rent. The opioid crisis, in which almost 2 million people are addicted to prescription drugs, is also causing some families to break up or children to be removed from their homes. A disproportionate number of homeless youth are LGBT, according to University of California Williams Institute. Nearly seven in 10 said that family rejection was a major cause of becoming homeless, and abuse at home was another major reason.
2-3-20 Nintendo Switch leaker admits child sex abuse
A 21-year-old man has admitted hacking into Nintendo's servers, leaking details about unreleased products and possessing child sexual abuse images. Ryan Hernandez, known online as Ryan West and RyanRocks, stole and leaked information about the Nintendo Switch before it was released. When FBI agents seized his devices in 2019, they also found he had downloaded child sexual abuse images and videos. He pleaded guilty to the charges and will be sentenced in April. In 2016, Hernandez and an associate had used a "phishing" attack to trick a Nintendo employee into handing over their login details, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said. He used these to download confidential files and information about the Nintendo Switch, which he leaked to the public. In 2017, when Hernandez was still under 18, the FBI visited him at his parents' home, in California. He told the officers he would stop hacking and understood the consequences if he continued. But he had resumed his activity in 2018, the DOJ said. He hacked into a Nintendo server and stole developer tools and information about unreleased games, boasting on social media about his finds. When the FBI returned to his home, in June 2019, they found devices designed to access stolen video games as well as thousands of stolen Nintendo files. They also found more than a thousand images and videos of child sexual abuse in a folder he named "bad stuff". Under the terms of his plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Hernandez spends three years in prison. However, the sentence will be decided by a judge and he could be given a 20-year term for possession of the child abuse images. Hernandez has agreed to pay Nintendo damages of about $260,000 (£199,000) and will also registered as a sex offender following his conviction.
1-24-20 More on Epstein
The Virgin Islands government has sued to force the estate of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to forfeit two islands near St. Thomas worth $86 million. The suit says Epstein trafficked hundreds of young women and girls, some as young as 11, to the islands.
1-23-20 Jessica Simpson reveals childhood sexual abuse
US singer Jessica Simpson has revealed how being sexually assaulted as a child led to a reliance on drugs and alcohol. The 39-year-old had top 10 UK chart hits in the noughties with I Wanna Love You Forever, These Boots Are Made For Walkin' and With You. In an excerpt of her new memoir Open Book, published in People magazine, she admitted to self-medicating for years to deal with the "trauma". "I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills," she said. Simpson quit drinking alcohol in November 2017 when she realised it was "making things worse". "Giving up the alcohol was easy," she went on. "I was mad at that bottle. At how it allowed me to stay complacent and numb." The abuse she suffered began when she was six years old when she shared a bed with the daughter of a family friend. "It would start with tickling my back and then go into things that were extremely uncomfortable," she wrote. "I wanted to tell my parents. I was the victim but somehow I felt in the wrong." Six years later she plucked up the courage to tell her parents during a car journey. Her mother reacted by slapping her father's arm and yelling: "I told you something was happening." "Dad kept his eye on the road and said nothing," wrote Simpson. "We never stayed at my parents' friends' house again but we also didn't talk about what I had said". Simpson found fame as a teenage pop star in the late 1990s before starring in MTV reality series Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica alongside her former husband Nick Lachey. She's now married to former American football player Eric Johnson, with whom she has three children. The star, who used therapy to allow herself to finally "feel the traumas" she'd been through said she'd been on "a long hard deep emotional journey".
1-21-20 How a boy from Vietnam became a slave on a UK cannabis farm
It was a horrifying death for the 39 Vietnamese nationals found in the back of a trailer in an industrial park in Essex, in October last year. The story shone a light on the subterranean world of people smuggling and human trafficking, reports Cat McShane, specifically the thriving route between Vietnam and the UK. Ba is slight for 18. His body shrinks into a neat package as he recalls his experiences. We're sitting in a brightly lit kitchen, a Jack Russell dog darting between us under the table. Ba's foster mum fusses in the background, making lunch and occasionally interjecting to clarify or add some detail to his account of his journey here from Vietnam. She wants to make sure his story is understood. Ba's lived here for nearly a year. He was placed with his foster parents after being found wandering, confused and scared, around a train station in the North of England, with just the clothes he was wearing. "You feel safe now though, don't you?" his foster mum asks, needing affirmation that the mental and physical scars Ba wears will heal with enough care. His story is one both extraordinary, and typical of the growing number of Vietnamese men and women recognised as being potential victims of trafficking in the UK. For several years, Vietnamese have been one of the top three nationalities featured in modern slavery cases referred to the National Crime Agency, with 702 cases in 2018. The Salvation Army, which supports all adult victims of modern slavery in the UK, says the number of Vietnamese nationals referred to them over the last five years has more than doubled. It's estimated 18,000 people make the journey from Vietnam to Europe each year. Ba believes it was a Chinese gang that trafficked him to the UK. He was kidnapped off the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, where he was a street child, an orphan who slept in the bend of a sewage pipe. He sold lottery tickets for money, although older men sometimes beat him and grabbed his takings. A 2017 Unicef report described Ho Chi Minh City as "a source location, place of transition and destination of child trafficking". And a 2018 report by anti-trafficking charities said numerous trafficked Vietnamese children had reported being abducted while living on the streets.
1-19-20 When sexual abuse was called seduction: France confronts its past
An 83-year-old French writer once feted by the Paris intellectual set now finds himself ostracised because of his writings about sex with teenage boys and girls. From the 1960s onwards, Gabriel Matzneff made no secret of his passion for seducing adolescents. But a new book by one of the teenagers he slept with in the 1980s has led to a criminal investigation for rape of a minor. And now debate is raging in France about who is more to blame: Matzneff himself or the world he moved in. The moment that Gabriel Matzneff realised that the moral wind was turning against him came on 2 March 1990 when he appeared on France's famous TV book programme Apostrophe to discuss the latest of his published diaries. The footage can easily be found on the internet. In a jocular tone the programme's respected presenter, Bernard Pivot, asks Matzneff (then aged 53) what it is like to be a serial "collector of young chicks". All bald-headed suaveness, Matzneff explains how he prefers school-age girls who have yet to be "hardened" by disillusionment over men. He says they come to him because he listens and takes them seriously. The panel nods understandingly. A Catholic woman who is there to defend fidelity in marriage laughs, as if at a charmingly naughty child. But then Pivot turns to a woman who has so far been silent, a Canadian writer called Denise Bombardier, and the atmosphere suddenly changes. "I feel like I am living on a different planet," says Bombardier coldly. And she launches into a devastating attack on her neighbour. Does he not understand anything about the rights of children, she asks. Has it never occurred to him that these young girls may end up damaged? "For me, Mr Matzneff is abject. We all know how some girls can become besotted by men with a certain literary aura," says Bombardier. "Some older men like to attract little children with sweets. Mr Matzneff does it with his reputation."
1-17-20 Oregon woman sues church
An Oregon woman is suing the Mormon church for informing the police that her husband was molesting their daughter. The woman, unnamed to protect her daughter, says her husband confessed to a church group to “repent for his sins.” A group member told police, and her husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The woman wants $9.5 million to compensate for her husband’s lost earnings, “companionship, society, love, [and] affection.”
1-10-20 Ignoring the crimes of our intellectual elite
#MeToo has finally come for Gabriel Matzneff, said Marie-Estelle Pech. The 83-year-old French author has been writing and talking about his sexual relationships with teenage boys and girls for decades. In the 1970s, he published a notorious essay titled The Under-16s, and on TV appearances he made no secret of his sex tourism trips to Asia, where he preyed on young boys. In a 1990 talk show appearance—footage of which is now being shared widely online—Matzneff explained that he preferred innocent girls because he had no success with jaded women of 25. These confessions “offended nobody in the literary and journalistic world” at the time. Matzneff was even given a yearly public stipend to live on, because his works, though they never sold well, were considered to have “contributed to the influence of French-language literature.” Today, though, we are looking at Matzneff with new eyes. One of his alleged victims, Vanessa Springora, now 47, has just published Consent, a memoir that details how Matzneff groomed and overpowered her when she was 14 and he was in his 50s. The Paris prosecutor last week opened a statutory rape investigation against Matzneff. Will this self-proclaimed pedophile spend his final years behind bars?
1-10-20 Tayyaba abuse case: Pakistan judge and wife's sentences cut
A Pakistani judge and his wife jailed for torturing their 10-year-old maid have had their sentences slashed. Judge Raja Khurram Ali and his wife, Maheen Zafar, were both serving three-year sentences after the girl was found with multiple injuries back in 2016. The case horrified Pakistan, where pictures of the girl went viral. But the Supreme Court has now cut the couple's sentences to a year - meaning they could soon walk free. Prosecutors are appealing against the reduction. The judge and his wife were initially sentenced to 12 months in jail after being found guilty in April 2018. That was then increased to three years by the Islamabad High Court in June 2018, following an appeal by prosecutors. At the time, judges said the couple were "not worthy of any sympathy" because "they deliberately and consciously made an innocent and helpless child to suffer tremendously". The girl, named only as Tayyaba, had been sent to work for the judge and his wife in the capital, Islamabad, by her family, who were struggling to make ends meet after her father lost a finger. She was one of an estimated 12 million child workers in the country. Children are not legally allowed to work in most businesses in Pakistan, but in the vast majority of the country, there is no law banning them from working inside homes. Tayyaba had worked at the house for two years when neighbours alerted police. The girl was found with severe injuries, which the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science said included burns to her hands and feet. Pictures of the girl, then 10, also showed cuts and bruising to her face, along with a swollen left eye. She told prosecutors she was beaten for losing a broom. Ali - who has been struck off as a judge - and Zafar always denied all allegations. (Webmaster's comment: The sentence should instead be increased by one year for every instance of abuse! There can be no excuse for child abuse!)
1-10-20 Jeffrey Epstein: Jail CCTV erased by 'technical errors'
Surveillance video from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein's first suspected suicide attempt was destroyed by accident, prosecutors say. US prosecutors say the jail mistakenly saved footage from the wrong cell. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, first tried to kill himself in July last year, then hanged himself in jail in August while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. He had pleaded not guilty to abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14. Soon after Epstein's death, in August, two of the CCTV cameras outside his cell had malfunctioned and were being examined by the FBI, US media reported. Epstein was found semi-conscious in his prison cell with injuries to his neck on 25 July. After this incident, he was placed on suicide watch. Eventually, Epstein was moved to a different cell, where he died on 10 August. Two prison guards have since been accused of failing to check on him during this time and falsifying records to say that they had. There have been ongoing questions over the July recording, which was initially deemed missing and then was said to have been located by jail staff. A letter filed by Assistant US Attorneys Jason Swergold and Maurene Comey said "the footage contained on the preserved video was for the correct date and time, but captured a different tier than the one where Cell-1 was located", New York City media report. (Webmaster's comment: Jeffrey Epstein was obviously murdered while in prison!)