Thursday, April 19, 2012

MassKids Gets $80K to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

April 13, 2012 — Massachusetts Citizens for Children, also known as Mass Kids, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for the welfare of children, announced that it recently received an $80,000 grant from the Ms. Foundation for Women to fund a campaign that aims to end child sexual abuse.

Massachusetts Citizens for Children (MCC) is the lead agency for the Enough Abuse Campaign, an effort that helps communities build local coalitions to prevent child sexual abuse and provides tools and training to educate parents, youth, and a wide range of professionals about prevention strategies.

MCC Executive Director Jetta Bernier said, “This latest grant will help the campaign move closer to its goal, that by 2015 every city and town in Massachusetts will be actively engaged in preventing child sexual abuse in their homes and communities."

The campaign, which launched in 2002, operates in Gloucester/Cape Ann, Orange/Athol, Newton/Waltham, Greater Springfield, Lowell, and in several western Massachusetts rural communities. MCC is looking to establish the campaign on Cape Cod and in Worcester County.

Betta noted that, following the recent Penn State child sex abuse scandal, which focused on child abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach dating back to the 1990s, many youth-serving organizations are eager to improve their policies around recruitment, hiring, and supervision and offer training about child sexual abuse prevention for staff and volunteers.

Small to mid-size organizations, however, report they lack the resources and expertise that national organizations do to address the issue, she said.

“The Ms. Foundation grant will help the campaign develop a cadre of consultants and trainers who can assist these organizations improve their capacity to keep children safe from sexual abuse in those settings,” according to Betta.

The Ms. Foundations has called the Enough Abuse Campaign "an effort that breaks the mold on child sexual abuse in many ways. It goes beyond a limited set of trainings to foster the building of real and lasting relationships among diverse stakeholders. Its emphasis on community collaboration truly sets it apart from previous efforts."

An assessment of more than 3,000 parents and professionals who participated in community and state-level trainings, conducted by MCC, found that:

  • 95% said the trainings helped them identify problem or abusive behaviors in adults
  • 94% learned how to asses unhealthy sexual behaviors in children and to respond in appropriate and non-shaming ways to address them
  • 95% learned where to go or who to talk to if they suspect someone is sexual abusing
  • 98% would recommend the training to others

According to the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, “Child sexual abuse involves any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity.

"Sexual contact between an older and a younger child also can be abusive if there is a significant disparity in age, development, or size, rendering the younger child incapable of giving informed consent.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

MCC Responds to Sex Offender Advocate Group

The March 30th Letter writer Paul Shannon (“Voice of reason muffled over child abuse bill”) wrongly depicted support for repeal of the Statute of Limitations in cases of child sexual abuse as “madness” and its supporters as operating under “mob mentality.”  Under the guise of supporting “evidence-based” policies and opposing hysteria around sex offenders, Mr. Shannon concocts a false and fear-mongering scenario in which repeal, he says, would result in police taking a person accused of a 40-year-old child sex crime into custody “without any significant corroborating evidence.”  The fact is that repeal of the criminal Statute of Limitations would have no retroactive impact on past crimes. After the bill’s passage, only future victims would be able to file charges against their abusers without having to do so before an arbitrary time clock ran out.
Readers should know that Mr. Shannon’s interest in opposing SOL repeal stems from his long history of defending child sexual abusers. An educator and staff of the American Friends Service Committee, Mr. Shannon publicly likens the trial of former priest and convicted child sex abuser Paul Shanley to the Salem witch hunts.  Mr. Shannon is also an initiator of the group Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL), referred to by anti-pedophile advocates as “the New NAMBLA.”  Leaders of the widely discredited North American Man Boy Love Association repackaged themselves in 2007 into the group which Mr. Shannon now leads.
RSL formally disavows any connection to NAMBLA, BoyChat, B4UAct and other related groups. Why then is Tom Reeves aka “Alex Marbury,” a known NAMBLA founder, and self-described “boy lover” described on the group’s website as “the heart and soul of RSOL”?  The group fights against all sex offender laws and the abolishment of sex offender registries because, says Mr. Shannon, of the “unnecessary pain caused to [sex offenders] …and the irrelevance of these laws to public safety.”
RSOL and its affiliates in other states seek to gain credibility by aligning themselves with emerging valid concerns about the need to reform certain sex offender policies, e.g. establishing differential responses to adolescent versus adult offenders.  However, these apologists also support changing the laws of consent, promoting the notion that sex between adults and children can be consensual and, if not violent, does no harm.
Why doesn’t Mr. Shannon’s frequent call for compassion for sex offenders and their families extend to child and adolescent victims and their families? The serious and long-term damage done to children who are sexually abused and exploited has been overwhelmingly documented. The resulting fiscal costs for health and mental health services, child protection, foster care, law enforcement and court costs are staggering.
If normalization of sexual behavior between adults and children is his ultimate vision, why doesn’t he acknowledge it and stop hiding behind his purported interest in protecting children?
Jetta Bernier, Executive Director
Massachusetts Citizens for Children
Robert CurleySomerville, MA

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Project Self-Sufficiency helps launch 'Enough Abuse' effort to prevent child sexual abuse

published: April 1, 2012
in the Warren Reporter

Legislators, social service organizations, municipal officials and educators convened in Newton on Friday to begin a local effort to combat child sexual assault. Sussex County nonprofit agency Project Self-Sufficiency has been chosen, along with only two other nonprofit organizations in the state of New Jersey, to take part in a ground-breaking effort to end child sexual abuse in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey. The agency will be joined by PEI Kids, located in Mercer County, and Wynona’s House, headquartered in Newark, as the first organizations in New Jersey to replicate the Enough Abuse Campaign throughout their communities.

The initiative aims to educate teens and adults about the nature and scope of child sexual abuse, and provide the tools necessary to protect children. For example, studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, when in fact, up to 90% of sexual predators are actually known to the victim.

From left to right: Project Self-Sufficiency Program Coordinator
Claire Willetts; Enough Abuse [Campaign] Program Coordinator
Alison Lampron; Project Self-Sufficiency Board of Director Beverly
Gordon; Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey Rush
Russell; and Massachusetts Citizens for Children Executive Director
 Jetta Bernier gather to kick of the Enough Abuse child sexual
assault prevention campaign in Sussex and Warren Counties

Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey (PCA-NJ), the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, is a nonprofit that works throughout the state to eliminate child abuse and neglect. “Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem in New Jersey and causes devastating harm to victims,” said Rush Russell, Executive Director of PCA-NJ. “We congratulate these three communities for their courage and commitment to taking action now to prevent any child from being sexually abused, and we look forward to expanding the network of committed communities statewide.”

With funding support from the Ms. Foundation for Women and Prevent Child Abuse America, PCA-NJ has established the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, bringing together experts from every sector and region of the State who share a commitment to preventing child sexual abuse. The Partnership is currently working on a new strategic plan for the State of New Jersey to strengthen efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, and will also help to oversee the three local community projects as they begin their work.

“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be partnering with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey in this important effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in northwestern New Jersey,” said Alison Lampron, Enough Abuse [Campaign]Program Coordinator. “This educational outreach program will build on Project Self-Sufficiency’s 25-year history of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient. Protecting our children from harm is an adult responsibility, and we are confident that the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community.”

The gathering featured keynote speaker and activist Jetta Bernier, who serves as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children organization. Jetta provides leadership in the areas of child abuse prevention, family support, and child welfare, and directs the "Enough Abuse Campaign" in the state of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts initiative was funded through a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2007, and is currently supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Jetta is also Co-Chair of the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, a grassroots coalition that succeeded in 2006 in extending Massachusetts’ criminal Statute of Limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and that is working to pass the Comprehensive Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act of 2009 to address gaps in current laws.

“The Enough Abuse Campaign is all about action. We have got to take action to prevent child sexual abuse. There is not one particular program that will change society and the way it deals with child sexual abuse, so we must look to other public health initiatives. Social movements must have strategies on several fronts. houghtfully, diligently, we will educate people and encourage them to take action, and we will build this movement,” commented Jetta, noting that other social movements such as anti-smoking or the use of child safety helmets combined public education, with policy initiatives, collaborative planning and targeted intervention to cause behavioral change over time.
Project Self-Sufficiency is a private nonprofit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey. The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability. Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 19,500 families, including more than 30,000 children.

For information about the Enough Abuse [Campaign] community outreach program, or any of the other programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.