12-29-20 Ghislaine Maxwell denied $28.5m bail in sex crime case
A US judge has turned down a $28.5m (£21.4m) bail package by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell who is awaiting trial on sex crime charges. The New York ruling said the suspect, 59, poses a flight risk and the offer did not assure her appearance at future hearings. She is accused of helping the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein groom young girls, which she denies. It is the second time bail for Ms Maxwell has been denied. She has been in jail in Brooklyn, New York City since she was arrested in July at her secluded mansion in the state of New Hampshire. Lawyers suggested she had been hiding out at the mansion. Her bail package proposed that she be allowed to return home with armed guards to prevent her from escaping. Lawyers objected to her prison conditions, saying she was subject to invasive searches and that guards disturbed her every 15 minutes to check she was still alive. But prosecutors said there was a risk that, if bailed, Ms Maxwell could use her wealth to flee to France or the UK where she is a citizen and suggested she might try to avoid extradition. Ms Maxwell was in a relationship with financier Jeffrey Epstein in the 1990s. He died in a prison cell in August last year as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Four of the charges against Ms Maxwell relate to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016. She faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted in her trial, which is scheduled to begin next July. Court documents filed in November to apply for bail said the multi-million dollar proposal represented all of Ms Maxwell and her husband's joint assets, including three homes. Ms Maxwell is the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. She allegedly introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York, Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family.
12-28-20 Boy Scouts of America accuse Girl Scouts of starting 'war'
A recruitment drive by the Boy Scouts of America is proving "highly damaging" to the Girl Scouts, lawyers acting for the latter organisation say. The "infringement" meant many parents mistakenly signed their daughters up for Boy Scouts, thinking it was Girl Scouts, lawyers said. In response, the Boy Scouts accused the Girl Scouts of starting a "ground war". The Boy Scouts dropped the word "boy" from its recruitment programme, and opened up to female members, in 2018. It said at the time that it was renaming the Boy Scouts programme Scouts BSA as it prepared to allow girls to join. But the Girl Scouts said the change would erode their brand, calling the move "uniquely damaging" to them, filing an initial lawsuit in November 2018 against trademark infringement. Last month, lawyers acting on behalf of the Boy Scouts asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit, which suggested it could not use "scouts" or "scouting" in its recruitment material for girls. In the latest filing at the Manhattan federal court on Christmas Eve, the Girl Scouts described the new recruitment programme as "highly damaging" to its organisation, having caused an "explosion of confusion" among parents. "As a result of Boy Scouts' infringement... [there have been] rampant instances of confusion and mistaken instances of association between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts," the papers stated, adding that the organisation could provide proof of such instances. In a statement released on Saturday, the Boy Scouts said this was "not only inaccurate - with no legally admissible instance of this offered to date in the case - but it is also dismissive of the decisions of more than 120,000 girls and young women who have joined Cub Scouts or Scouts BSA". In October 2017, the Boy Scouts' board of directors voted unanimously to open the century-old club to all children. The move triggered a fierce backlash online, with the Girl Scouts accusing the group of initiating a "covert campaign" to recruit girls into an organisation that had a "well-documented" declining membership. The Boy Scouts reportedly has close to 2.3 million members in the US, down by about a third since 2000, compared with about 1.7 million members for the Girl Scouts - excluding adult volunteers.
12-20-20 Cardinal Pell says his conservative views drove public against him
George Pell, the Australian cardinal whose conviction for child abuse was overturned this year, has said his conservative Christian views drove public opinion against him. Speaking to the BBC, the 79-year-old said there was "no doubt" that his direct style and traditional approach to issues such as abortion had contributed to a hostile atmosphere. The former Vatican treasurer said he would not apologise for those views. His case rocked the Catholic Church. The cardinal, who had been one of the Pope's most senior advisers and always maintained his innocence, had left the Vatican in 2017 to fight the charges against him in his home state of Victoria. In his first broadcast interview in the UK, Cardinal Pell said he would not apologise for his conservative views, but had said sorry "many times" for the Church's crimes of sexual abuse. "I think my style is rather direct - the fact that I defend Christian teachings - is irritating to a lot of people," he told BBC's Radio 4's Sunday programme. "For my basic Christian positions I make no apology at all." Asked about the victims of child abuse and what it must be like living with the consequences of what happened to them, Cardinal Pell said he was "very much aware of their suffering". He said that while he regretted what had happened within the Church, he was "able to sleep quite well on most occasions". "I deeply lament the suffering of so many people, but I am also proud of the efforts that we have made in Australia for over 25 years - as inadequate as those might have been." Cardinal Pell also likened his time in segregation in prison to being in a seminary, where those training to be priests used to endure periods of silence and isolation. The Australian cleric rose in prominence as a strong supporter of traditional Catholic values, often taking conservative views and advocating for priestly celibacy. He was summoned to Rome in 2014 to clean up the Vatican's finances, and was often described as the Church's third-ranked official. He left his post as Vatican treasurer in 2017 to contest accusations that he had sexually abused two choir boys when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
12-20-20 Nigeria kidnapping: Mahuta children rescued after gun battle
Police in Nigeria say they have rescued at least 84 schoolchildren who were abducted on Saturday. They say the children were seized by gunmen as they returned home to Mahuta village after taking part in a religious ceremony. The children were released following a gun battle between the abductors, security forces and local vigilantes. It is the second mass kidnapping in Nigeria's Katsina state in eight days. On Friday, 344 schoolboys who had been kidnapped from their boarding school in Kankara town a week beforehand were released. In a statement following the latest abductions, Katsina state police said that at least 80 of those abducted were students of an Islamic school called Hizburrahim Islamiyya. The force also said the armed kidnappers had also stolen 12 cows from nearby Danbaure village. Police did not reveal more about the attackers' identities or their motives, referring to them only as "bandits". It is a catch-all phrase in north-western Nigeria covering Fulani herdsmen, armed vigilante groups and even Islamist militants fleeing the insurgency in the north-east, says the BBC's Nduka Orjinmo in Lagos. Most kidnappings by "bandits" are done for ransom. In the past some leaders of bandit groups, who engage in kidnapping and attacks on farming communities, have openly met governors and other state authorities to negotiate, our reporter adds. Deadly clashes in north-western Nigeria have increased in recent years as warring farmers and herdsmen have employed armed vigilantes. AFP news agency quotes a leader of a local vigilante group who pursued the attackers on Saturday as saying a total of 113 people had been abducted, a higher number than the 84 announced by police.
12-15-20 Nigeria's Katsina school abduction: Boko Haram says it took the students
Nigeria-based Islamist militant group Boko Haram has said it was behind last week's kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in the north-western Nigerian state of Katsina. More than 300 pupils are unaccounted for, but others managed to escape. The authorities had previously blamed "bandits" for the attack. Boko Haram has been notorious over the last decade for school kidnappings, including in Chibok in 2014, but these have taken place in the north-east. In an audio message about the abductions, its leader Abubakar Shekau said "what happened in Katsina was our responsibility" and that his group opposed Western education. This year hundreds of people in Nigeria's north-west region have been killed in attacks by what authorities have called criminal gangs, but until now it has been unclear whether they had links with Boko Haram. The militant group has waged a brutal insurgency since 2009, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria. Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been forced from their homes. Activists have criticised President Muhammadu Buhari, whose home state is Katsina, of mishandling the security operation against the militants. Some have accused him of not showing empathy to the victims and families there after a video shared online on Tuesday showed him visiting his farm. "It's absolute incompetence and an uncaring, indifferent ruling class that does not understand what it means to govern," former Nigerian Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili told the BBC's Newsday programme. "Here we are as a country just completely showing ourselves as completely unserious when it comes to the matter of human life especially that of our children, " she said, accusing the government of rebranding "terrorism as banditry".
12-14-20 Canada 'Sixties Scoop': Indigenous survivors map out their stories
Thousands of indigenous children in Canada were forcibly removed from their families between the 1950s and 1980s, in what is known as the “Sixties Scoop”. They were put into non-indigenous homes by welfare agencies, in an attempt to assimilate them into mainstream culture. Now survivors are mapping out their stories and finding solace in connecting with others.
12-14-20 Kenya's black market baby trade: A mother's choice
Last month, BBC Africa Eye exposed a thriving black-market trade in babies in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Police arrested seven people on trafficking charges in response to the story, but what about the women on the other side of these illegal deals? What drives a mother to sell her child? Adama's life was easy when she had her parents, she said. Money was tight, and her options were already narrow, but there was an order to things that made sense. She attended school and cherished it. She had few worries. Then her father died when she was 12, and her mother died a few years later. "Life became so hard then," she said, in a conversation from her village in rural western Kenya. "I had to drop out of school and fend for myself." At 22, Adama met a man and got pregnant, but he died three days after their baby daughter was born. Her loneliness deepened. She nursed her baby through an infant sickness until the girl improved, at about 18 months, then a steady income was needed to keep them both alive. So Adama left the baby with her elderly grandmother and headed to Nairobi to find work. "Bear in mind you are going to get a living for your child," her grandmother said. Adama arrived in Nairobi and began by selling watermelon on the street, but it didn't pay enough and her housemate stole any money she left at home. Life in the city was hard too: she has a scar at the top of her forehead, just under her cropped hair, from defending herself. "Some men were playing with me and it reached a point I had to fight back," she said. She moved on to work on a construction site, where she wasn't paid at all, and from there to a nightclub, where she instructed her boss to send her pay directly back to her grandma in the village. After a while, Adama took a little more of her pay in Nairobi so she could rent a place to live. She found a new job with slightly better wages at another construction site, and met a man there. The two dated for a while and he told her he wanted to have a child. Adama offered him a deal — if she could bring her baby girl to live with them, they could have a child together. He agreed, and for five months of Adama's pregnancy he paid the rent and bills and bought food for their home, and Adama waited for the right time to bring her baby girl into the city. Then he left one day and never came back.
12-9-20 Pornhub bans user uploads after abuse allegations
Pornhub, one of the world's most visited adult sites, is changing its rules over user uploads after being accused of hosting illegal videos. A New York Times investigation accused the site of being "infested" with child-abuse and rape-related videos. Pornhub said the claims were "irresponsible and flagrantly untrue". But it has now said users must be verified to upload videos and removed its download function, which meant removed content could easily resurface. The verification feature will launch in the new year, it said. For now, uploads have been removed for all users except industry professionals. The move follows reports Visa and Mastercard had launched their own investigations into the claims. If - as the New York Times article had urged - the two payment companies had suspended their services, it would have hit the website's owner, Mindgeek, financially. Pornhub is generally free to use but offers a subscription service for higher-quality and exclusive videos. The company has also now issued a statement promising "major steps to further protect our community". New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's investigation said searches for under-18s or specific ages of children yielded thousands of results. And some people told Kristof they had been abused as children in the videos. "Because it's impossible to be sure whether a youth in a video is 14 or 18, neither Pornhub nor anyone else has a clear idea of how much content is illegal," he wrote. Adult performers and producers have been advocating for some of these changes for years, ever since sex video sites dramatically changed internet porn. The ability for any user to freely download and upload content made it possible for pirated, stolen and illegal videos to proliferate, while also making sales of original content more difficult. If fully implemented by PornHub and other sites, the new rules could have a significant impact in tackling illegal and pirated content, in a major victory for adult performers and non-consensual imagery campaigners.
11-24-20 Ntabo Ntaberi: DR Congo militia leader jailed for crimes against humanity
A former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity, including mass rape. A military court convicted Ntabo Ntaberi of murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting children under the age of 15. The ruling came at the end of a two-year trial that saw 178 victims testify. The United Nations said the ruling showed "impunity is not inevitable". "This verdict is a source of immense hope for the many victims of the conflicts in the DRC: their suffering has been heard and recognised," said Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN's peacekeeping mission in DR Congo. Ntaberi, also known as Sheka, was one of the leaders of a militia group called Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC), which operated in the restive eastern province of North Kivu. Eastern DR Congo has long been wracked by conflict, fuelled by political divisions and the area's abundance of mineral resources. There was a civil war in DR Congo between 1998 and 2003, but some militias fight on and continue to commit atrocities in the east, where a UN mission is struggling to keep peace. Authorities first issued a warrant for Ntaberi's arrest in January 2011, accusing him of orchestrating raids on villages in mid-2010. During those raids, members of the NDC and two other militia groups allegedly raped about 400 people and killed almost 300. Ntaberi was on the run for nearly six years, but eventually surrendered to UN peacekeepers in DR Congo in July 2017. He was prosecuted along with three co-defendants, including a commander from another militia, who also received a life sentence for crimes committed in North Kivu. Their jail sentences were handed out at the trial in the city of Goma on Monday. "We are satisfied with this verdict, it is a strong signal to other warlords," Kahindo Fatuma, a spokesman representing the victims, told AFP news agency. "The victims will be a little bit relieved." Thomas Fessy, a researcher on DR Congo for Human Rights Watch, said Ntaberi's conviction was "an important step in the fight against impunity". Dozens of armed groups are active in eastern DR Congo. A spin off of Ntaberi's militia group still operates in eastern DR Congo under the name NDC-Renovated, or NDC/R.
11-23-20 Afghanistan war: 26,000 Afghan children killed or maimed since 2005
An average of five children have been killed or wounded every day for the past 14 years in war-torn Afghanistan, a charity has found. Data from the UN showed at least 26,025 children were killed or maimed from 2005 to 2019, said Save the Children. The charity has urged donor nations to protect the future of Afghan children ahead of a key meeting in Geneva. Violence has been rising in Afghanistan amid stalled peace talks and US troop withdrawals. Afghanistan is among the 11 most dangerous nations in the world for children, according to Save the Children. In 2019 it accounted for the greatest number of killing and maiming violations of all the global conflicts covered in the charity's report, released on Friday, with 874 Afghan children killed and 2,275 maimed. More than two-thirds of those killed and maimed last year were boys, it said, "as a result of ground engagements between pro- and anti-government forces or of improvised explosive devices in both suicide and non-suicide attacks". The report found that schools have routinely been attacked in the ongoing conflict that pits the Afghan government, supported by US troops, against the Taliban and other insurgents. Save the Children said that between 2017 and 2019 there were more than 300 attacks on schools. "Imagine living with the constant fear that today might be the day that your child is killed in a suicide attack or an airstrike. This is the grim reality for tens of thousands of Afghan parents whose children have been killed or injured," said Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children's country director in Afghanistan, in a statement. Ahead of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, a meeting of international donors that is starting in Geneva on Monday, the charity urged donor nations to safeguard the future of Afghan children with increased humanitarian funding. It also called on the UK government to commit itself and its allies to avoid using explosive weapons in populated areas.
11-21-20 Kenyan online cartel is luring girls to orgies, police warn
Police in Kenya are investigating an "online cartel" that targets girls stuck at home because of coronavirus and lures them under false pretences to what officers describe as orgies. The case came to light after three missing teenagers were rescued by officers in the capital Nairobi. The three told police they had seen a social media account that invited them to "parties" in the city. Police warned parents to keep a close eye on their children's activities. "The DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) wishes to inform the public that we are hunting down members of the cartel and they'll be apprehended to answer for their crimes," police said on Twitter. Cases of young girls disappearing - some after being promised jobs - have been reported in Kenyan media in recent days. Earlier this week the relative of one girl made a tearful appeal on Twitter fearing she had been kidnapped or trafficked. The relative said the girl had gone missing in Nairobi on Saturday after being lured by people who were promising modelling jobs. "My cousin along with the 16-year-old girls, six of them, have not been seen since," the woman in the video says. On Friday, police tweeted that child-protection detectives had rescued three of the seven girls reported missing. Efforts to trace the others were continuing, they said. They did not reveal details of where the girls were found or if any arrests had been made. The DCI said the cartel operated from Nairobi and was using internationally registered telephone numbers. "As investigations go on we wish to issue a stern warning to individuals taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to prey on school girls, Their days are numbered," the DCI tweeted. Earlier this month the East African country tightened restrictions as a second wave of the coronavirus caused a surge in cases and deaths. Public gatherings are banned and an overnight curfew is in place. Schools closed in March but partially reopened in October. The government has said they will not fully reopen until January. Kenya, which has a population of 53m, has reported more than 75,000 infections and 1,349 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
11-18-20 Kenya arrests three health workers after BBC Africa Eye exposé
Police in Kenya have arrested three senior medical officers for allegedly running a child-trafficking syndicate following a BBC investigation into the theft and sale of babies. BBC Africa Eye revealed children were stolen to order from illegal clinics and at a Nairobi public hospital. The babies were sold for as little as $400 (£300). The police chief has ordered an investigation into hospitals, as well as children's homes in Nairobi. Investigations have revealed that senior medical officers were closely involved with child traffickers, said Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai. The suspects have not commented. The investigation by BBC Africa Eye uncovered a trade in children stolen from vulnerable mothers living on the street, as well as the existence of illegal clinics dotted around the capital, Nairobi, where babies are sold for as little as $400. The investigation also revealed corruption at Mama Lucy Kibaki, a public hospital in Nairobi. Fred Leparan, a clinical social worker at the hospital, facilitated the sale of an abandoned two-week-old baby boy to undercover reporters, later accepting 300,000 shillings ($2,700;£2,000) in cash. Both Mr Leparan and Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital declined requests to comment on the investigation's findings. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Kenya's Labour and Social Protection Minister Simon Chelugui said the culprits would face the "full force of the law". Mr Chelugui also acknowledged that improvements to some of Kenya's child protection services were needed. His colleague in the Interior Ministry Fred Matiang'i thanked the BBC for exposing the "rot" at Mama Lucy hospital. He added that human and drug trafficking are the biggest challenges Kenyan security was dealing with. There are no reliable statistics on child trafficking in the East African state, but a non-governmental organisation, Missing Child Kenya, said it had been involved in nearly 600 cases in the past three years.
11-17-20 Boy Scouts of America: Almost 100,000 make sexual abuse compensation claims
Almost 100,000 alleged victims of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have come forward to claim compensation from the group. A lawyer for the plaintiffs called it the biggest-ever US sexual abuse case. The claims were filed ahead of a deadline on Monday evening. Internal files published in 2012 revealed decades of abuse. BSA - which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year - has apologised to victims, saying it was "devastated". Negotiations will now begin between the alleged victims, the BSA and their insurers. The organisation still has a considerable membership - more than two million youth participants ranging in age from five to 21. But this is about half of what it was in the 1970s, a decline that aligns with mounting scrutiny of the organisation. In February, BSA said was filing for bankruptcy protection to be in a position compensate victims. The proceedings in a federal bankruptcy court will eventually lead to the creation of a fund to settle abuse cases that are upheld. "It's by far the largest sexual abuse scandal in the US," attorney Paul Moses told the AFP news agency on Monday. In terms of current reported numbers, it dwarfs similar complaints made against the Catholic Church in the country. In a recent statement, BSA said it had been "moved by the bravery" of those who had come forward. "We intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation. The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching," the group added. In 2012, the Los Angeles Times newspaper uncovered about 5,000 files detailing allegations against scout masters and troop leaders who had been deemed "ineligible volunteers". Most incidents had not been reported to police, and the BSA tasked themselves with removing those accused. In 2010, Mr Moses won $20 million (£15 million) for a former boy scout abused by his leader.
11-13-20 Dutch police give 'stop paedophile hunts' warning after Arnhem death
A Dutch police chief has called for an end to "paedophile hunting" after a 73-year-old retired teacher was beaten up by teenagers and died of his injuries. Oscar Dros said there was a risk more people could die and he appealed for justice to be left to the authorities. The man from the eastern city of Arnhem was lured into having sexual contact with a minor while in a gay chatroom. Authorities said he was aware the boy was underage. But there was no evidence of past sexual contact with minors. The Arnhem attack is the latest in a series of 250 incidents involving so-called "paedophile hunters" in the Netherlands, reports say. Reports say the group of teenagers had come up with the idea of hunting for a paedophile after reading stories elsewhere in the Netherlands. The former teacher arrived at an agreed meeting point on 28 October and was then followed as he made his way home. He was beaten up by a group of boys and died later in hospital. Mayor Ahmed Marcouch has spoken of an "awful crime" that has had an impact on the local community. Dozens of neighbours, friends and former pupils took part in a ceremony to remember the victim last weekend. The fifteen-year-old's lawyer told local website De Gelderlander that the idea of hunting paedophiles "happened out of boredom in this corona time". His client had got carried away but did not himself take part in the attack. Jamil Roethof argued that the teenagers had only wished to confront the man and had no premeditated plan to attack him. He suggested he had died of a fall. Seven teenagers were arrested, six of them under the age of 18, and two have been held in custody. East Netherlands regional police chief Oscar Dros appealed to Dutch citizens to "stop paedo-hunting; stop detaining; stop provoking - leave this to us." Mr Dros told Algemeen Dagblad newspaper that since July some 250 incidents had been registered involving self-styled hunters, and there were probably many more. The practice has now been banned by police and public prosecutors.
11-11-20 Child abuse: Australian police find 46 victims of 'global network'
Australian police say they have rescued 46 children and arrested 14 men after an investigation into an international child abuse network. The victims were allegedly subjected to crimes including sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation. The investigation also led to three arrests in the US and had identified suspects in Europe, Asia, Canada and New Zealand, authorities said. The case is believed to be one of the biggest of its kind in Australia. All victims were aged between 16 months and 15 years old, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said. Sixteen of the victims had attended one childcare centre. The 14 men faced a total of 828 child exploitation charges, as well as bestiality charges involving four animals. Authorities said the network had produced and shared images and video online. One of the most serious cases involved a suspect who had worked in a childcare centre in New South Wales and had access to 30 children, police said. The 27-year-old man faced more than 300 charges, including sexual abuse. His partner, 22, was also facing charges. Police said families of the children at the centre had been notified. The year-long investigation began after a tip-off from US investigators about an Australian internet user, the AFP said. That led to an arrest in February of a 30-year-old man in the town of Wyong, north of Sydney. He was charged with 89 offences, including the abuse of two children. Police said that case led them to social media forums where pictures and videos were produced and shared. "Each warrant led to the discovery of more alleged offenders and more children to be saved," said the AFP in a statement on Wednesday. The suspects - aged between 20 and 48 - included a volunteer soccer coach, an electrician, a chef, a supermarket employee and disability care worker.
11-11-20 Catholic Church abuse: Vatican defends handling of McCarrick case
A Vatican report has found that two recent popes and Church officials ignored allegations about a US cardinal later found guilty of sex abuse. Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington DC, was expelled from the priesthood after the Vatican concluded its investigation last year. It has now issued a report into how he was able to rise through the ranks, despite allegations going back decades. It argues that credible evidence only surfaced in 2017. The current Pope, Francis, then ordered the investigation and last year Mr McCarrick, now 90, was found to have sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. His abuses may have taken place too long ago for criminal charges to be filed because of the US statute of limitations. The 450-page report includes testimonies and dozens of letters and transcripts from Vatican and US Church archives. Mr McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington DC from 2001 to 2006. The report finds that the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, was told of his abuses but chose to believe American bishops who instead concealed the information and Mr McCarrick himself, who denied it all. It also finds that Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013, probably rejected the idea of an investigation because there were "no credible allegations of child abuse". The report acknowledges that, in hindsight, the Vatican's investigations into the allegations against Mr McCarrick were of a "limited nature". In July 2018, Mr McCarrick became the first person to resign as a cardinal since 1927. Pope Francis suspended him from all priestly duties the following February. He is among hundreds of members of the clergy accused of sexually abusing children over several decades. "We publish the report with sorrow for the wounds that these events have caused to the victims, their families, the Church in the United States and the universal Church," said the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
10-23-20 Italian held in France on suspicion of 160 rapes and sexual assaults
A 52-year-old Italian man wanted in Germany on suspicion of carrying out 160 rapes and sexual assaults, mainly on underage girls, has been arrested across the border in France. France's BNRF brigade for hunting fugitives said he was held last Friday at Rumersheim-le-Haut near Mulhouse. He was wanted in connection with attacks, mainly on the children of his partners, between 2000 and 2014. Officials said 122 inquires had so far been opened against him in Germany. French reports said that among the offences he was suspected of committing were the rape of his daughter over a number of years. German authorities first alerted their counterparts on 7 October that the suspect had crossed into France. His whereabouts were passed on days later and he was detained on 16 October. He is now being held in Colmar during extradition proceedings.
10-7-20 France passes new law to protect child influencers
France has introduced a new law to protect young social media stars. The legislation aims to regulate the hours under-16s can work online and what happens to their earnings. It also enshrines the right to be forgotten, meaning that platforms will be obliged to take down content on the child's request. The popularity of child influencers has grown rapidly in recent years, with a number of young names appearing on the list of YouTube's top earners. The change will make France a pioneer in the rights of child social media stars, the MP behind the bill, Bruno Studer, was quoted as saying by Le Monde newspaper. The new law, which was passed unanimously on Tuesday, does not affect all children who appear on social media, but instead targets those who spend significant amounts of time working online and whose work generates an income. The change offers them the same protections as those given to child models and actors in France, with their earnings placed in a bank account until they turn 16. Companies wishing to employ child influencers must also receive permission from local authorities. Before the law was passed on Tuesday, Mr Studer told La Tribune newspaper: "Children's rights must be preserved and protected, including on the internet, which must not be a lawless area." The world of child social media stars can be highly lucrative, with incomes boosted by advertising deals and merchandise sales. According to Forbes, last year's top YouTube earner was American Ryan Kaji, then aged eight, whose toy review channel made $26m (£20m). Third on the list was Russian-born Anastasia Radzinskaya, now six, who earned $18m (£13.7m).
10-1-20 Coronavirus risks ‘greatest surge in child marriages in 25 years’
The coronavirus pandemic could lead to a spike in child marriages globally, reversing 25 years of progress on ending the practice, a charity has warned. Save the Children said Covid-19 had put 2.5 million more girls at risk of early marriage by 2025. The pandemic is increasing poverty, forcing girls out of school and into work or marriage, the charity said. Girls in parts of South Asia, Africa and Latin America are most vulnerable. The UK-based charity is calling on world leaders to commit more funding and support to efforts to address child marriage and gender inequality. "These marriages violate girls' rights and leave them at increased risk of depression, lifelong violence, disabilities and even death," said Karen Flanagan, a child-protection adviser for Save the Children. She said that 78.6 million child marriages had been prevented over the last 25 years but progress to end the practice had "slowed to a halt". Last month Girls Not Brides, a group that campaigns to end child marriages, told the BBC it was seeing a similar trend, driven by shrinking economies and the closure of schools during the pandemic. Dr Faith Mwangi-Powell, chief executive of Girls Not Brides, said education "provides a safety net for girls". She said more financial support, monitoring and community engagement was required to ensure girls can attend school. Around 12 million girls are victims of early marriage every year, the charity says. But its report finds that number is expected to rise markedly over the next five years as the economic consequences of pandemic take their toll. In 2020 alone, another 500,000 girls risk being forced into child marriages and up to one million more are expected to become pregnant, the charity says. If no action is taken, there could be 61 million child marriages by 2025, according to the charity, yet this estimate may only be "the tip of the iceberg". "The pandemic means more families are being pushed into poverty, forcing many girls to work to support their families and to drop out of school - with far less of a chance than boys of ever returning," Bill Chambers, the president and CEO of the charity, said. "A growing risk of violence and sexual exploitation combined with growing food and economic insecurity also means many parents feel they have little alternative but to force their young daughters to marry older men." In April, the UN said there could be as many as 13 million more child marriages globally over the next decade because of the pandemic.
9-30-20 Nxivm: Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman jailed in 'sex cult' case
US heiress Clare Bronfman has been sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for her role in the Nxivm sex trafficking group. Bronfman, heir to the Seagram liquor fortune and a benefactor of Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, pleaded guilty in April 2019 to harbouring migrants for unpaid "labour and services". She also admitted to credit card fraud. She was taken into custody to begin her jail term immediately after the sentencing in Brooklyn, New York. Writing to the court last month, Bronfman said she "never meant to hurt anyone, however I have, and for this I am deeply sorry". However, she said Nxivm had "greatly changed my life for the better" and that she wouldn't denounce its leader Raniere. Nxivm - pronounced "Nexium" - was started in 1998 as a self-help programme. It said it worked with more than 16,000 people. On its website, Nxivm described itself as a "community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human". Despite its tagline of "working to build a better world", Raniere was last year convicted of overseeing a "slave and master" system within the group. The trial last year heard that Nxivm operated like a cult. Prosecutors told the court that members formed a secret sorority of brainwashed "slaves" who were branded with Raniere's initials and forced to have sex with him. Bronfman was on Nxivm's executive board, and gave Raniere tens of millions of dollars to run the group's intensive self-improvement classes. She also paid for the group's lawyers when a lawsuit was filed against them. Counsel acting for Bronfman argued that she should be given a lenient sentence because she wasn't directly involved in the most serious allegations against Nxivm, and that she has a pre-existing health condition that could make her more vulnerable to coronavirus in prison. However, prosecutors said she should be given a serious punishment because "Raniere would not have been able to commit the crimes with which he was convicted were it not for powerful allies like Bronfman".
9-17-20 Cheer star Jerry Harris charged with producing child sex images
Jeremiah "Jerry" Harris, one of the stars of the Netflix documentary series Cheer, has been arrested and charged with producing child sex images. Mr Harris, 21, allegedly enticed an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself, the US attorney's office said. According to court records, Mr Harris admitted to soliciting and receiving explicit images from the minor. But a spokesperson for the star has denied the allegations. Mr Harris was arrested on Thursday morning and later appeared in court in Chicago. He did not enter a plea. A judge said a hearing would be held on Monday to determine if he will stay in custody or be released on bail, according to US media reports. Mr Harris featured prominently in the popular series Cheer, which followed a cheerleading team from Navarro College in Texas as they sought a national title. Mr Harris is accused of soliciting images from the minor from December 2018 to March 2020. The victim informed Mr Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, a criminal complaint says. If convicted on the federal child pornography charge, Mr Harris faces up to 30 years in prison. The charge comes after a lawsuit was filed earlier this week, in which Mr Harris was accused of child sexual exploitation and abuse of two alleged male victims. A spokesperson told CNN at the time that "we categorically dispute the claims" and "are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed". But court documents say Mr Harris admitted during an interview with law enforcement officials to soliciting and receiving explicit images from one of the minors and "at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors". Officials say investigations are ongoing and have called for anyone with more information to come forward.
9-11-20 Nigeria's Kaduna passes law to castrate child rapists
Lawmakers in Nigeria's Kaduna State have approved surgical castration as punishment for those convicted of raping children under the age of 14. State governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai needs to sign the bill for it to become law in the north-western state. He has previously supported castration to prevent rapists from re-offending. Nigeria's federal law provides between 14 years and life imprisonment as punishment, but state legislators can set different sentencing rules. Stigma often prevents victims from reporting incidents of rape in Nigeria and the number of successful prosecutions is low. In June Nigerian governors declared a state of emergency over rape and violence against women and children. Since 2015, when a new law was introduced, about 40 rape suspects have been charged, according to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which has a sex offenders list on its website. The new law broadened the scope under which sexual offences can be penalised in Nigeria and removed the time limit of two months during which rape cases had to be tried before they became ineligible to be heard in a court. The head of the agency, Julie Okah-Donli, told the BBC that as the burden of proof is on the prosecution, proving rape cases is "quite tedious and technical". Surgical castration of convicted rapists has been mooted in Nigeria for a while, especially as cases spiked during the recent coronavirus lockdown. There was widespread outrage in July following the murder of a 22-year-old university student who her family say was brutally raped and bludgeoned to death. It was one of several shocking cases within a week that led to street protests, an online petition signed by thousands and a Twitter hashtag #WeAreTired. Many Nigerians called for stiffer laws, such as the death penalty. "We feel that the new law will go a long way to curbing rising cases of rapes in our state," Kaduna lawmaker Shehu Yunusa told the BBC."If the Kaduna governor signs [this] into law, the next rapist caught in Kaduna might become the first person to be castrated under this new law," he said. (Webmaster's comment: We should have this law in the United States too!)
8-20-20 Israel investigates alleged Eilat gang rape of teenager
Police in Israel have launched an investigation into the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in the southern resort town of Eilat. Two people have been detained so far. One of the suspects said more than 30 men had sex with the girl, but denied rape, according to local media reports. The men are accused of raping the teenager while she was intoxicated. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for those responsible to be "brought to justice". "This is shocking, there is no other word. This is not only a crime against the girl, this is a crime against humanity itself that is worthy of all condemnation," he tweeted on Thursday. The teenager filed a complaint to police last Friday. According to Israeli media reports, she went to Eilat earlier this month with a friend, and met up with a group of the friend's acquaintances. They all went out to drink together before going back to a hotel, where the men allegedly raped the girl, one after the other. Authorities say the teenager's friend tried to help her, but was not able to stop the men. The identities of the two detained suspects have not been made public, but local media reports say they are Israeli residents in their 20s. One was arrested after police found video documentation of the alleged assault in messages between him and the teenager, the Times of Israel reports. The suspect has denied communicating with the girl, and says someone else was using his phone. The same suspect told police that more than 30 people were involved in the incident, but that security camera footage would prove that it was consensual. Defence Minister Benny Gantz has condemned the alleged attack. "The police investigation is still under way, but it's important that I convey a message to those who participated or bore witness to this case or others: The only thing you've proven is what depravity of your soul and morality you are capable of," he tweeted.
8-18-20 Anger in Brazil as 10-year-old rape victim's name posted
There has been outrage in Brazil after the personal details of a 10-year-old rape victim were published online. The girl's name was posted by an anti-abortion activist seeking to stop her from having a termination. Following the online post, abortion opponents gathered outside the hospital where the girl was due to have the procedure. The girl had become pregnant after being raped. Police arrested a man suspected of raping her on Wednesday. The case has caused widespread anger in Brazil and a judge has ordered Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove the personal details of the 10-year-old from their sites. Judge Samuel Miranda Gonçalves Soares ruled that the companies had 24 hours to remove the information or face a fine of 50,000 reais ($9,000; £6,900) a day. Brazil has strict laws on abortion, but terminations are allowed in cases of rape when the mother's life is at risk or when the foetus has the birth defect anencephaly - a rare condition that prevents part of the brain and skull from developing. Even though the girl had been given legal permission to have her pregnancy terminated, anti-abortion activists tried to stop it from being carried out by holding a noisy protest outside the hospital. They shouted at hospital staff, calling them "killers", and at one point tried to force their way into the building, but were dispersed by military police. The girl was smuggled onto the hospital's premises in the boot of a car and entered the building by a side door, pro-choice activists said. The BBC's South America correspondent Katy Watson says the girl's personal details appear to have been initially released by far-right activist Sara Giromini, better known under her alias of Sara Winter. It is not yet clear whether Sara Giromini will face charges for making the name of the girl public, but legal experts have told BBC News Brasil that she could be charged with incitement to violence.
8-16-20 India rape: Two men arrested for 13-year-old's rape and murder
A 13-year-old girl has been raped and murdered in India. Her body was found in a sugarcane field in northern Uttar Pradesh state, police said on Saturday. Two neighbours in the village have been arrested. Police have denied the father's account that his daughter had had her eyes gouged out and her tongue cut. Rape and sexual violence have been under the spotlight in India since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in the capital, Delhi. That attack led to huge protests and changes to the country's rape laws, but there has been no sign of crimes against women and girls abating. According to recent crime figures, every fourth rape victim in India is a child. In an overwhelming number of rape cases, the victims know the perpetrators. The latest incident occurred late on Friday in Pakaria village in the Lakhimpur Kheri district, police said. The family went searching for their daughter after she failed to return from a toilet break out in the fields. They say they found her body mutilated. But police said the post-mortem examination had concluded that she had died from strangulation after being raped - but not that her eyes had been gouged out or that her tongue had been cut. "There were scratches near the eyes, likely due to the sharp sugarcane leaves where the body was found," police spokesman Satendra Kumar said. A senior member of the Opposition Congress Party, Jitin Prasada, condemned the attack as "saddening". "The inhuman act with a girl has put humanity to shame," he said, according to the Times of India newspaper. The incident comes months after the case of a six-year-old girl who was abducted outside her home in Madhya Pradesh state and raped. The attacker inflicted severe injuries to the child's eyes, in an apparent attempt to stop her identifying him. In February, a 25-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping a five-year-old girl on the premises of the US embassy in Delhi. In November last year, the gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in the southern city of Hyderabad also made global headlines and triggered protests. (Webmaster's comment: United States has 1/4 the population of India, but has 4 times the number of rapes!)
8-5-20 Daisy Coleman: Assault survivor in Netflix film takes own life
Daisy Coleman, a sexual assault victim advocate and subject of the Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy, has taken her own life, according to her mother. Ms Coleman, 23, was 14 when she alleged she was raped at a party in 2012 in Maryville, Missouri. Her case drew national attention as she spoke of being bullied after the incident, but the charge against the teenage boy she accused was dropped. She was reportedly found dead after her mother called police to check on her. "She was my best friend and amazing daughter," her mother, Melinda Coleman, wrote on Facebook. "I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can't. "I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it's just not fair. My baby girl is gone." Ms Coleman alleged she was assaulted while intoxicated by a 17-year-old boy, Matthew Barnett, at a house party in January 2012, when she was 14. Her mother said she found her daughter the next morning, left outside on the porch, with wet hair and wearing just a T-shirt and sweatpants in sub-zero temperatures. Barnett was charged with felony sexual assault, but the case was eventually dropped. Ms Coleman's family argued this was due to the local political connections of the boy's family. Barnett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child endangerment, arguing his sexual intercourse with Daisy had been consensual. Ms Coleman's case sparked national discussions over teenage rape cases in the US justice system as well as victim blaming and bullying. Ms Coleman and her family eventually moved out of Maryville after threats and harassment in school. She was featured in the award-winning 2016 Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy, which highlighted the bullying faced by teenage assault victims. The other girl in the film, Audrie Pott, took her own life in September 2012, days after she was sexually assaulted. (Webmaster's comment: We need to accept the word of children that they were raped! And put the bastards accused away for a long, long time!)
7-31-20 Ghislaine Maxwell-Jeffrey Epstein emails revealed in new court papers
Emails between UK socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein have been revealed in a trove of unsealed court documents. Epstein tells Ms Maxwell she has done "nothing wrong" in the 2015 exchange, which appears to contradict her earlier claims of not having contacted him. And in a deposition, accuser Virginia Giuffre says Ms Maxwell was as equally involved in sex trafficking as Epstein. Ms Maxwell faces a trial in the case in July 2021 and has pleaded not guilty. She remains in custody in New York, charged with trafficking minors for Epstein and perjury. She could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted. Epstein died in prison on 10 August 2019 as he awaited his trial on sex trafficking charges. His death was determined to be suicide. Dozens of papers were ordered to be unsealed late on Thursday by a court in New York. There is a near 350-page paper containing the testimony from 2016 of Virginia Giuffre, who has alleged that she was forced into sex with Epstein and his friends. The deposition comes from her now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against Ms Maxwell. There is also an email exchange between Ms Maxwell and Epstein from 2015, which shows how concerned she was about possible fallout from the case. Police reports and flight logs from Epstein's private jets have also been unsealed. Lawyers for Ms Maxwell fought to keep the papers secret. They have managed to get a temporary block on two additional documents - a deposition from 16 April related to Ms Maxwell's sex life and another deposition, this time from an unnamed Epstein accuser. They could still be released on Monday, though, pending further court challenges. An email sent by Epstein to Ms Maxwell on 21 January 2015 carries what appears to be a statement to be used by Ms Maxwell in defence of any accusations against her.
7-17-20 Doctor Room: The counsellor helping digital sex crime victims
"Thank you for putting a brake on the life of a devil that could not be stopped." That is how one suspected ringleader of a clandestine online sextortion ring in South Korea described his relief at being caught. Cho Ju-bin, known as "The Doc," operated chatrooms where he blackmailed dozens of young women, including at least 16 minors, into making sexually explicit videos of themselves. They often featured rape and violence. He then sold these videos online through Telegram, an encrypted messaging service. Fees ranged from $200 to $1,200. But this was not the first - his "Doctor Room" was itself a copy of existing "Nth Rooms". Customers paid to access the so-called "Nth Rooms", where extorted content was uploaded, often in real time. There are countless similar chatrooms, suggesting that there are tens of thousands of paying members. According to Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, each of the rooms hosted videos from three to four girls who had been blackmailed by chatroom operators. The chatroom operators contacted the girls, promising modelling or escort jobs. They would then direct the women to a Telegram account to provide personal details, which were used to blackmail the victims. Cho is facing 14 charges including rape, blackmail, coercion, and illegal production and distribution of sexual content. His trial began on 11 June, three months after he was arrested. He has admitted that he produced sex videos and distributed them on Telegram, yet he is denying that he resorted to coercion, blackmailing and violence, according to his lawyer. But while the focus is on the alleged perpetrator, his victims have a lonely struggle ahead. In socially conservative Korea, the dozens of women and children who were exploited in the videos face a long and difficult journey to rebuild their lives. One woman helping them is Lee Hyorin. She told the BBC about her work fighting digital sex crime.
7-15-20 Kenyan 12-year old girl married to two men within a month
A 12-year-old girl has been rescued by authorities in Kenya after she was married off to two men in the span of one month. The girl's father, in Narok county west of the capital Nairobi, forced her to marry a 51-year-old man. She escaped and then got married to a 35-year-old before being rescued by a children's rights campaigner and government officials. In Kenya, marrying someone who is under 18 years of age is a crime. A children's rights campaigner said he was tipped off about the girl when he was in the process of rescuing another girl. "The father gave her off to the elderly man to be married. She had no option than to get married to the younger man," Joshua Kaputah from the Narok County Peace Association told the BBC. Mr Kaputah added that poverty and the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic have played a role in increasing cases of child marriages. "Some families are hungry and the prospect of receiving two or three cows as dowry is quite tempting," he said. Marrying off underage girls has been an issue of concern among the Maasai community who inhabit Narok County, the BBC's Peter Mwai says. He adds that Maasai girls tend to be viewed by men in-charge of households as wealth, and are married off to a man chosen by the father in exchange for cattle. The government has been cracking down on the tradition but it still thrives partly due to poor enforcement of existing laws. Kenya's Standard newspaper reports that after the first groom offered four cows as a dowry, the girl protested against getting married but was then beaten up by her male cousins. "I escaped and since I could not go back to my father's home for fear of being reprimanded, I eloped with a 35-year-old man, who was married," she is quoted as saying in the Standard.
7-8-20 Mary Kay Letourneau: Teacher who married boy she raped dies at 58
A former teacher from Washington state whose sexual encounters with a pupil led to a jail sentence and worldwide notoriety has died of cancer aged 58. Mary Kay Letourneau was convicted of second-degree child rape in 1997 after becoming pregnant by Vili Fualaau when he was 12 or 13 and she was 34. She gave birth to their second daughter in prison in 1998. After serving her prison term the couple married in 2005. They separated after 12 years of marriage. Ms Letourneau's lawyer David Gehrke told US media that she had died at home surrounded by her children and Mr Fualaau. Ms Letourneau was a married mother-of-four living in Seattle when she began to have sexual encounters with her sixth-grade student. She initially served just a few months in jail but after she was paroled she was caught having sex again with the young teenager. The former teacher was returned to prison to serve another seven years. Her two daughters with Mr Fualaau were initially raised by his family. She had reportedly been ill for six months before her death. She was brought up a Catholic and was the daughter of a conservative Republican congressman, John G. Schmitz. His political career was ended by scandal when it emerged he had fathered two children out of wedlock.
7-5-20 Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre on Maxwell arrest
A US woman who says she was brought to Britain aged 17 to have sex with Prince Andrew has said he "should be panicking" following the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell. Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's accusers, says she was trafficked to London by Epstein in 2001. She spoke to Australia's Channel Nine 60 Minutes programme following the arrest of Epstein's former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested on charges of helping Epstein's sexual exploitation of girls and young women, and also perjury. Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell both deny allegations made against them.
7-3-20 Coronavirus-denying Father Sergiy expelled by Russian Church
A Russian Orthodox Church court has expelled a coronavirus-denying cleric from the priesthood after he seized control of a convent. Father Sergiy - who calls himself Nikolai Romanov, after Russia's last tsar - took over Sredneuralsk Convent, near Yekaterinburg in the Urals, on 16 June. He posted armed guards there. The Yekaterinburg Church court found he had broken monastic rules. Fr Sergiy has condemned the closure of churches in the coronavirus lockdown. He called the Covid-19 crisis "a pseudo-pandemic" and cursed those who ordered that church services be stopped on health grounds. There have been complaints of child abuse at the convent under Fr Sergiy's leadership, and the Church court called for a thorough investigation of the allegations by the Russian authorities. The Church is also carrying out its own investigation. BBC Russian has interviewed several witnesses who stayed at the convent between 2001 and 2020, and who described physical and psychological violence towards children as routine there. The former residents said children were slapped or beaten for minor misdemeanours. Punishment was meted out for example if a girl took off her headscarf while hauling a sack of potatoes early in the morning, or if a child ran through the woods into town to get some chocolate. Some of the nuns considered administering beatings to be as routine as tending the horses or working in the refectory, they alleged. Fr Sergiy has stated that church authorities "will have to storm the monastery" if they want him to leave. The controversial cleric was barred from preaching in April. He refused to attend the court sessions. Fr Sergiy helped found the Sredneuralsk Convent in the early 2000s, and hundreds of supporters have flocked there over the years to hear his sermons. Russian authorities shut churches to worshippers on 13 April amid the ongoing pandemic, and only reopened them last month.
7-2-20 Ghislaine Maxwell 'helped exploit girls as young as 14 years old'
Ghislaine Maxwell, British socialite and ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI. Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, detailed the alleged role Maxwell played in the grooming and sexual exploitation of underage girls. Ms Maxwell has previously denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein's alleged sexual misconduct. Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.
7-2-20 Jeffrey Epstein ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, an ex-girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI. The six charges include enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and two counts of perjury. She was reportedly arrested in New Hampshire and is due in federal court later. She has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein's alleged sexual misconduct. Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges. He was arrested last year in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls - some as young as 14 - for sex. His death was determined to be suicide. Four of the charges relate to the years 1994-97 when Ms Maxwell was, according to the indictment, among Epstein's closest associates and also in an "intimate relationship" with him. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016. The indictment says Ms Maxwell "assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18". She is charged with conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. During the same period she groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein, the indictment says. She attempted to befriend them by asking about their lives and families and then she and Epstein built the friendships by taking minor victims to the cinema or shopping. Having built a rapport, Ms Maxwell would "try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by... discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein".
6-20-20 The New Zealand porn ad designed to protect children
How do children learn about sex? If it's via pornography, a New Zealand public advertising campaign is warning that may not be a great thing. The ad, with two porn actors showing up at a boy's home, has since gone viral.
6-16-20 US missionary Gregory Dow pleads guilty to sex crimes in Kenya orphanage
An American Christian missionary has pleaded guilty in a US court to sexually abusing young girls at the orphanage he started in Kenya. Gregory Dow, 61, admitted to four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place. The orphanage was in operation from 2008 to 2017 when Mr Dow left Kenya. The FBI and Kenyan authorities investigated him and he was charged in the US. In 2008, Dow founded the orphanage in western Kenya. It was partly funded by churches in Lancaster county in the US state of Pennsylvania, reports local newspaper LNP. He is accused of assaulting girls from 2013. Two of the girls were 11, one was 12 and another was 13, adds LNP. "The defendant purported to be a Christian missionary who cared for these children and asked them to call him 'Dad'. But instead of being a father figure, he preyed on their youth and vulnerability," said the US Department of Justice in a statement. He fled Kenya in September 2017 when the allegations of assault came to light, the statement adds. It goes on to say that the FBI acted on a tip off and Mr Dow was charged in July 2019. "Gregory Dow hid behind his supposed faith on the other side of the world, hoping no-one in the US would know or care about the children he abused. He was wrong," said US attorney William McSwain. Prosecutors pointed out that in 1996 he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, for which he received two years' probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender for a decade. Dow is scheduled to be sentenced on 29 September, reports the AP news agency.
6-12-20 Zahra: Pakistan couple face polygraph over child maid 'tortured to death'
A couple in Pakistan accused of torturing their seven-year-old maid to death will be held in jail for two weeks while police arrange a polygraph. Hospital staff in Rawalpindi alerted police at the end of May after the couple brought the injured girl, Zahra, for treatment. She died a day later. It is illegal to employ anyone under 15 in Pakistan but it remains common. The case has prompted anger and made national headlines. The accused couple have not commented publicly. Pakistan's human rights minister promised to amend the laws to curb the practice of employing child workers. Critics say too little has been done to enforce laws already in place. Zahra's grandfather Syed Fazal Hussain Shah told the BBC that a distant relative who had been working at Siddique's house as a cook for some years got Zahra the job with the couple, about five months ago. "He said they will educate her, something that we couldn't afford. So we decided to send her," he said. According to a police report, Zahra was brought by her employer Hasan Siddique to a hospital in the upmarket Bahria Town district of Rawalpindi in a critical condition on 31 May. She had been bleeding profusely and had torture marks on her face, chest, arms and legs. She was put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit (ICU) but died the next day. According to the report, the police were alerted to the case by hospital staff on the morning of 1 June, when Zahra was still alive, but unconscious. The hospital staff told the police that Mr Siddique had brought Zahra in at about 6:30pm on the previous day. He is alleged to have told the staff that Zahra was his house maid and had allowed his parrots to escape from their cage, which enraged him and his wife and they beat her up. Staff at the hospital say that while they were busy giving emergency aid to Zahra, Mr Siddique disappeared from the scene. They searched for him in the hospital premises but could not find him. So they contacted the police. Police then tracked down and arrested the couple, using a copy of the national ID card which the man who brought Zahra into hospital had used to get her admitted.
6-5-20 FGM: Egyptian father 'used coronavirus lie to trick daughters' into procedure
A man in Egypt who allegedly had female genital mutilation (FGM) carried out on his three daughters after tricking them, has been charged along with the doctor who performed the procedure. The doctor went to the girls' house after their father told them they would receive a coronavirus "vaccination", Egypt's prosecutor-general said. The girls, aged under 18, were drugged and the doctor cut their genitals. FGM was made illegal in 2008 in Egypt but remains prevalent. A coronavirus vaccine currently does not exist although global trials to develop one are under way. The girls told their mother, who is divorced from their father, about the procedure and she notified authorities. "They lost consciousness and when they woke up they were shocked to find their legs bound together and a sensation of pain in their genitals," the prosecutor said in a statement. Performing FGM was made a criminal act in Egypt in 2016, and doctors can be jailed for up to seven years if found guilty of carrying out the procedure. Anyone who requests it can face up to three years in prison. But so far no-one has been successfully prosecuted under the law. Women's rights groups say judges and police do not take the legislation seriously enough. "It's really shocking that authorities such as judges and the police continue to treat FGM cases with extreme leniency here," Reda el-Danbouki, executive director of the Cairo-based Women's Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness, told AFP news agency. In January, 14-year-old Nada Abdel Maqsood bled to death after forcibly undergoing FGM, sparking fury online. Her parents and the doctor were referred to a criminal court, but Mr Danbouki says it is now unclear whether a trial will go ahead. Despite being outlawed in many parts of the world, the ritual is still practised globally. The procedures alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons, and often involve the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris. The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation. (Webmaster's comment: The men involved should be arrested, tried, convicted and TOTALLY CASTRATED!)
6-4-20 Sudan banned FGM - what happens next?
Sudan's new government has banned FGM - female genital mutilation - but this does not mean the practice will disappear overnight. It is deeply embedded in Sudanese culture and is also difficult to talk about. The BBC's Insaf Abbas discusses some of the long-term work that will need to happen now to ensure the new law can be enforced successfully.
5-27-20 Romina Ashrafi: Outrage in Iran over 'honour killing' of girl
Police in northern Iran have arrested a man accused of murdering his 14-year-old daughter in an "honour killing" that has sparked widespread outrage. Romina Ashrafi ran away from home in Gilan province with her 35-year-old boyfriend after her father objected to their marriage, local media said. The pair were found by police and Romina was sent home despite reportedly telling them she feared for her life. Last Thursday night, she was allegedly attacked by her father in her bedroom. News outlet Gilkhabar.ir reported that Romina was "decapitated" with a sickle, and that afterwards the father walked outside the house "with the sickle in his hand and confessed". On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers highlighted Romina's story on their front pages. "Insecure paternal home", read the headline in the pro-reform Ebtekar, which lamented the failure of existing legislation to protect women and girls. Meanwhile, the Persian hashtag #Romina_Ashrafi has been used more than 50,000 times on Twitter, with most users condemning the killing and the patriarchal nature of Iranian society in general. Shahindokht Molaverdi, a former vice-president for women and family affairs and the current secretary of Iran's Society for Protecting Women's Rights, wrote: "Romina is neither the first nor will she be the last victim of honour killings." She added that such murders would continue "as long as the law and dominant cultures in local and global communities are not deterring enough" Iran's Islamic penal code reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who are convicted of murder or physically harming children in domestic violence or "honour killings". If a man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, the punishment is between three and 10 years in prison, rather than the normal death sentence or payment of diyeh (blood money) for murder cases.
5-17-20 One every eight minutes: India's missing children
It is estimated that a child goes missing in India every eight minutes. Many are trafficked as part of a nationwide trade which is separating children from their families. Millions end up in forced labour, domestic slavery and sex work, in what’s become a lucrative industry. But despite this, it rarely dominates headlines, there’s little public outrage, or political will to end it. (Webmaster's comment: India has 4 times the population of the United States, but in the United States over 1 child goes missing every minute.)
5-15-20 Afghan maternity ward attackers 'came to kill the mothers'
The cold-blooded murders of 24 women, children and babies at a hospital in the Afghan capital were horrific enough But as Frederic Bonnot made his way through the bullet-riddled maternity unit, he realised something more. The attackers had walked straight past a number of other wards, all closer to the entrance of Kabul's Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, and made straight for the maternity unit. To him, it meant one thing: this was no mistake. "What I saw in the maternity demonstrates it was a systematic shooting of the mothers," Bonnot, Head of Programmes for Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Afghanistan, said. "They went through the rooms in the maternity, shooting women in their beds. It was methodical. "They came to kill the mothers." Amina was just two hours old when the attack started. The little girl was the third child for Bibi Nazia and her husband, Rafiullah. Back at home, they already had a girl and a boy. Nazia had gone to the hospital with her mother, and Amina was born at 08:00. It should have been a day of celebration for Rafiullah. But at 10:00, the attack began. Explosions were heard by people outside the hospital complex. Those with family and friends inside rushed to the scene - including Rafiullah. "He ran from side to side. But he couldn't do anything: no one allowed him to go inside," his cousin Hamidullah Hamidi told BBC Pashto. Inside the walls of the hospital, three gunmen were moving through the 55-bed maternity unit, which has been run by MSF since 2014. A total of 26 mothers and mothers-to-be were inside at the time. Ten managed to flee to safe rooms; the other 16 - including Bibi Nazia and Amina - were not so lucky. Three of the 16 mothers were shot and killed in the delivery room, along with their unborn babies. Bibi Nazia was among the other eight mothers killed; little Amina was shot in the legs. Five more were wounded. Two young boys were also killed in the carnage, along with a midwife. One woman, named only as Khadija, told Reuters news agency how one of the gunmen had pointed his weapon at her, before turning it on two other people.
5-14-20 US church sues after bible study 'Zoombombed' by child abuse
A California church is suing video chat company Zoom after a hacker allegedly hijacked a virtual Bible study class to post graphic images of child abuse. A hacker took over users' computers and played "sick and disturbing videos", according to the lawsuit filed by Saint Paulus Lutheran Church. The San Francisco church's leaders contacted Zoom for help, but the company "did nothing", the suit says. In a statement, a Zoom spokesperson condemned the "horrific event". "Our hearts go out to those impacted," the company said, "On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to the relevant authorities." The company pointed to its "recently updated security features", adding that Zoom users should not widely share meeting access and passwords "as appeared to be the case" with the church group. The popularity of the Zoom video chat app has soared in recent months for work and leisure as virus lockdown measures have kept millions at home. The inflated use has come with heightened scrutiny over its security and privacy measures, with reports of so-called "Zoombombing" - where uninvited guests hack into meetings, sometimes posting racist, abusive or explicit content. Saint Paulus Church - one of the oldest churches in San Francisco - said in the suit, filed to a federal court in San Jose on Wednesday, that its 6 May bible study class was hacked by a "known offender - one who has been reported to the authorities multiple times". The eight Bible study students, mostly pensioners, had their computers' control systems disabled while the hacker played pornographic videos. "The footages were sick and sickening - portraying adults engaging in sex acts with each other and performing sex acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them," the suit alleges. When the students tried to end the video session and start again, the hacker attacked again, the suit says.
5-7-20 Cardinal Pell 'knew of' clergy abuse, says Australian royal commission
Cardinal George Pell knew of child sexual abuse by priests in Australia as early as the 1970s but failed to take action, a landmark inquiry found. The findings on Cardinal Pell - an ex-Vatican treasurer - come from Australia's royal commission into child sexual abuse, which ended in 2017. Details were only revealed on Thursday. A court had previously redacted the report because the cleric was facing child abuse charges at the time. The cardinal has denied the findings. He said he was "surprised" by the inquiry's report, adding: "These views are not supported by evidence." Cardinal Pell was convicted of child abuse in 2018, but last month was released from jail after Australia's top court overturned his conviction. In over 100 pages concerning Pell's actions, the commissioners found the cardinal knew of paedophile priests both early in his career, and as he progressed. In particular, the commissioners dismissed the cleric's long-stated defence that he didn't know about the actions of his former colleague Gerald Ridsdale. in the Victorian city of Ballarat. Ridsdale is in jail for hundreds of child abuse offences - and is considered Australia's worst convicted paedophile priest. "We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps," the commissioners said in the report. "We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it," the commission said. Pell was involved in the decision to transfer Ridsdale, as well other suspected abusers, to different parishes, the inquiry said. Since the 1990s, the cardinal has been criticised in Australia for his response to priest abuse within the Church.
5-5-20 Bois Locker Room: Indian teens' lewd Instagram group causes outrage
Indian police have taken a 15-year-old boy into custody for participating in an Instagram group chat that shared images of underage girls and made lewd comments about them. The group, "Bois Locker Room", is believed to comprise young schoolboys in the capital, Delhi. Screenshots of chats on the group have been shared widely on social media. The incident has caused outrage in Delhi, which is already seen as one of India's most unsafe cities for women. The 2012 rape and murder of a medical student in the city led to a global outcry and the passage of more stringent laws against rape and sexual assault. However, there has been little indication that the situation has improved since then. Several Instagram users who had been made aware of its existence began posting about the group and calling out members for their behaviour. It turned out that members were sharing images of their classmates and other underage girls without their knowledge or consent along with crude comments ranging from body shaming to jokes on sexual assault and rape. The screenshots began to be widely shared on WhatsApp as well as Twitter and other social media platforms. But Shubham Singh, a cyber expert who works closely with law enforcement and was one of the first people to begin investigating the group, has cautioned that many of these screenshots look edited. He added that there appeared to be a mix of images from this group and some similar groups that exist on other social media platforms like Snapchat. He said he started looking into the group after some Instagram users got in touch with him and sent him screenshots. "I tried to investigate it properly but no-one was coming forward to file a complaint. So we tried to find out who was behind the group. They had deleted their Instagram accounts but through the screenshots and some tools, I was able to trace them," he said.
5-1-20 Sudan criminalises female genital mutilation (FGM)
Sudan has criminalised carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), making it punishable by three years in jail. Some 87% of Sudanese women aged between 14 and 49 have undergone some form of FGM, according to the UN. In Sudan it is common for women to get the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, removed. FGM can result in urinary tract infections, uterine infections, kidney infections, cysts, reproductive issues and pain during sex. Girls get cut because of a widespread cultural belief that it is essential for girls' reputations and future marriage prospects. But there has been a global trend towards banning the practice. However, according to a Unicef report carried out in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, the practice is still being widely carried out, despite the fact that at least 24 of these countries have legislation or some form of decrees against FGM. BBC Sudan analyst Mohaned Hashim notes that there have been previous attempts to ban FGM in Sudan but parliament under long-time leader Omar al-Bashir rejected the recommendations. Women were at the forefront of the movement that toppled Mr Bashir in April 2019. Campaigners accused the former government of discriminating against women in various ways - including preventing women from wearing trousers. In November Sudan repealed a restrictive public order law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public. The FGM amendment to the criminal law was approved on 22 April, Reuters news agency reports. Under the amendment, anyone who performs FGM either inside a medical establishment or elsewhere faces three years' imprisonment and a fine. This feels like a momentous day for Sudanese women, although many are treating it with caution for fear that FGM could be driven underground. Maybe that will change with this news. I'm hoping that if anything, it shakes the taboo and gets more women and girls in Sudan talking about FGM.
4-9-20 La Luz del Mundo sex crimes case dropped by US court
Sex crime charges against the leader of an international religious organisation must be dismissed over procedural errors, a US appeals court has ruled. The La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) church's Naasón Joaquín García faced a number of charges, including child rape and human trafficking. Mr García was arrested in California last year and denies the allegations. The judges ruled the case should be dropped over a delay in granting him a hearing after new charges were added. The appeals court determined on Tuesday that Mr García should have been given a hearing within 10 days of the new charges, including child pornography, being filed, AFP reported, but there were delays in the case. This ruling is not considered final for another 30 days, and prosecutors are reviewing the decision. The Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church responded, saying in a statement that it was a decision in favour of justice as "the case should never have been brought" A fundamentalist Christian organisation, La Luz del Mundo was founded in 1926 by Mr García's grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González. Mr García is known as "the Apostle" to his followers. La Luz del Mundo says it has over five million followers globally, and over a million in Mexico. The church's influence has spread in recent years to parts of California that have large Hispanic populations. Mr García, a Mexican national, and three female co-defendants also affiliated with the church, are accused of committing 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018. These included human trafficking, production of child sex abuse images, and forcible rape of a minor. Court documents alleged Mr García lectured several underage victims about "a king having mistresses and stated that an apostle of god can never be judged for his actions".
4-7-20 George Pell: Court quashes cardinal's sexual abuse conviction
Cardinal George Pell has been freed from jail after Australia's highest court overturned his conviction for child sexual abuse. The former Vatican treasurer, 78, was the most senior Catholic figure ever jailed for such crimes. In 2018, a jury found he abused two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s. But the High Court of Australia quashed that verdict on Tuesday, bringing an immediate end to Cardinal Pell's six-year jail sentence. The Australian cleric had maintained his innocence since he was charged by police in June 2017. His case rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope's most senior advisers. A full bench of seven judges ruled unanimously in Cardinal Pell's favour, finding the jury had not properly considered all the evidence presented at the trial. It was the cardinal's final legal challenge, after his conviction was upheld by a lower court last year. "I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice," Cardinal Pell said in a statement after the decision. He had served more than 400 days of his sentence and cannot be retried on the charges. He was released from Victoria's Barwon Prison shortly after midday local time (02:00 GMT) and driven to a Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne, local media said. In December 2018, a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in private rooms of St Patrick's Cathedral in the mid-90s - when the cleric was Archbishop of Melbourne. The convictions included one count of sexual penetration and four counts of committing indecent acts. The trial heard testimony from a man alleged to be the sole surviving victim. Dozens of other witnesses provided alibis and other evidence. Cardinal Pell appealed against the verdict in Victoria's Court of Appeal last year, but three judges upheld the decision by a 2-1 majority.
4-5-20 Somali outrage at rape of girls aged three and four
The government in Somalia has condemned the abduction and rape of two girls aged just three and four. The doctor in charge of the hospital where they are being treated says they need major surgery. An official said several arrests had been made following the attack which happened on Wednesday. The parents say that the two cousins were walking home from school in Afgoye, close to the capital, Mogadishu. They were seized by men who took them away and sexually assaulted them. Their parents desperately searched the neighbourhood and found them alone the following day. BBC World Service Africa editor Will Ross says the fact that the girls are aged just three and four has added to the shock in Somalia where reports of rape have increased in recent years. It is thought that such horrific crimes have long been taking place but people are now more aware of the need to publicise the incidents in order to bring about change, he says.
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!)