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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

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In every educational and socioeconomic level, every culture line, every religion child sexual abuse exists.

One child is too many… if your child discloses sexual abuse start by believing them.

Offenders manipulate children, their families, and their communities by a process called grooming. Keeping sexual relations with the children in secrecy

Not the stranger behind the bush 90% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know and trust.

95% of child sexual abuse is preventable through awareness and education.

MOMS FIGHT BACK IS ENERGIZING AND EXPANDING PREVENTION TO BRING AWARENESS AND EDUCATION.

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

This piece was submitted to our 100K STORIES PROJECT by an anonymous protective mom.

I have been a single parent twenty two years now. Single parenthood is filled with tears , loneliness, and holding my breath to survive on a shoe string budget. Buster our dog was colored blue, extreme teenage rebellion which included the police and more hospital stays then I can count are just a few off my lists of parenting. My life changed when I was in a horrific car crash at thirty two weeks pregnant. I called the ex from the back of the ambulance and he never came. I survived twenty five surgeries and my son seven since 2006. The ex left California in 2009 for Colorado and never looked back. The lawyer stole my settlement and I ended up on welfare. The dad contributed two packs of diapers, bottles, drop ins, and socks and called it a day before he left. I was broken emotionally and financially and physically so I moved back home to my fathers. I just went back to working last year and juggling multiple jobs since my ex has managed to skate by the OCDA and now Colorado DA. My son receives SSI now from the injuries he sustained in the crash. I was told by the OCDA I was lucky at least I received something.  Why does the legal system fail our kids? My ex uses his Jr’s social and changed his middle name and still driving around freely while his kids go without. Why does the government pay for deadbeat dads and their responsibilities? Why do we as mothers go without since we sure don’t let our children do? I have been called bitter and money hungry by his new woman. I have been told by the OCDA its Colorado’s job sorry we just have to wait. In the end this battle is for our children and I am his voice. I will not be silenced by this corrupt child support system.

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

In 2016, distracted driving caused 40 accidents in Colorado per day, and in 2015 15,574 accidents and 68 deaths occurred due to distracted driving. Each year these numbers are rising making it clear that distracted driving has turned into an epidemic in Colorado. Although distracted driving is a problem across all age groups, teen drivers are the most likely to participate in distracted driving habits. From texting, eating, or focusing on passengers these types of accidents can occur at any moment. It’s a scary trend and teaching teens about the dangers of distracted driving is as crucial as ever.

In the state of Colorado, distracted driving is considered as any act of driving while engaged in anything—texting, talking on the phone or to a passenger, watching videos, eating, or reading—that takes a driver’s focus away from the road. For most “invincible” teens, it is easy to think that their driving expertise will keep them safe, but in reality taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds or making one small mistake can lead to disaster or even death. According to Impact Teen Drivers, teen driver crashes are the leading cause of death for our nation’s youth and the majority of these crashes are caused by distraction or inexperience. As mentioned before, it is crucial for teens to be educated on roadway safety and understand that everyone’s safety depends on their careful attention to the road. Luckily, Colorado and many others states in the U.S. have created laws for young drivers in order to prevent distracted driving and keep all roads safe.

Distracted Driving Laws for Colorado Teens

In late 2009, Colorado passed House Bill 09-1094. This bill states that drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using any kind of wireless telephone while driving, including all handheld and hands-free cell phones and text messaging devices. This is a “primary law”, meaning an officer can pull you over for the offense without having to witness any other violation. In order to be convicted, a law enforcement officer must see you texting and driving. The first offense of breaking this law involves a $50 fine and $6 surcharge; the second offense involves a $100 fine and $6 surcharge. Even if the driver only receives a ticket consequences such as fines, suspension, and increased insurance rates can also occur. Even worse, an accident involving distracted driving could leave a teen responsible for injury or death.

 What Is Distracting Colorado Teens?

Distracted driving can be caused by just about anything. Teens are especially tempted by these distractions. Check out the list of common distractions below:

  • Texting
  • Smartphone browsing
  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming or applying makeup
  • Conversations with passengers
  • GPS navigation systems
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or mp3 player
  • Driving while stressed
  • Driving under the influence
  • Fatigue

Putting Distracted Driving to an End

There are many things that can be done to prevent and stop distracted driving. As a parent, it is critical to discourage teens from using their phone while driving. Remind them of the dangers and set a good example. Show your teen that you make a commitment to yours, theirs, and other driver’s safety. Located below is a list of things to remind your teen before they get on the road:

  • Store items like cell phones, wallets, and others belongings in a glove box or bag that won’t roll around or be tempting to pick up.
  • Think ahead. If a GPS or other device will be used to help with directions, set the destination before driving begins.
  • Finish grooming and applying any makeup before getting into the driver’s seat.
  • Eat meals or snacks before getting behind the wheel.
  • Phone calls and text messages can wait. A text or phone call is not worth a life.
  • If a mobile device has to be used at any time, pull over and stop the vehicle in a safe place.

This informative guest post was written and submitted to Moms Fight Back by Dianne Sawaya , lawyer and founder of the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya .

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

Imagine sending your teenage daughter out on what she anticipates to be a fun, carefree date with a friend, new crush, or boyfriend only to receive her home confused, emotionally bruised and sexually assaulted. Date and acquaintance rape doesn’t always leave visible signs or scars, and it isn’t always reported, but that doesn’t make it any less traumatic.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology:

One in fifteen U.S. women between the ages of 12 years and 17 years are reported as rape victims.

As a mother, it can be a stretch to imagine your daughter to potentially be one of those statistics, but as a mother, it’s crucially important to be aware of the possibility and help educate your children about this often little-talked-about crime.

Date rape is defined as: forced or coerced sex within a dating relationship. In 2010, 48 percent of all rape or sexual assault crimes against female victims were committed by friends or acquaintances, reports the National Center for Victims of Crime.

In 2010, 48 percent of all rape or sexual assault crimes against females were committed by friends or acquaintances.

Date and acquaintance rape can occur in any circumstance, on any day, at any time, and in the most unlikely of places. Forcing anyone to have sex is rape, plain and simple, but there are other more insidious ways that date rape can occur that many moms aren’t even aware of: date rape drugs. Date rape drugs remove the issue of ‘force’ from the equation, often leaving the victim unaware or uncertain of what exactly has happened to her.

Date Rape

Date Rape Drugs

Different types of drugs are often used in a date rape assault. Some date rape drugs can actually render the victim unconscious and unable to defend themselves.

The four most common date rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol (also referred to as Roofies or Roach)
  • Ketamine (Also referred to as Kit-Kat, Special K or “K”)
  • GHB (Gammahydroxybutrate also referred to as Gibb or Easy Lay)
  • Alcohol (Yes, alcohol. Any drug that impairs a victim’s ability to set limits and make decisions can create risk for date rape. Alcohol is the most common drug contributed to sexual assaults.)

These drugs (with the exception of alcohol) are odorless and tasteless and can be easily poured into a drink undetected. The ingestion of these drugs can make the victim feel highly intoxicated, confused, dizzy and/or tired in a short amount of time. Victims who experienced date rape drugs describe difficulty staying awake and blackouts. These date rape drugs also have an amnesia-like effect on the body so the victim will often not remember what happened during the assault.

How Can a Mom Protect Her Child from Date Rape?

If you’re the mom of a teen you know better than anyone that teens can be particularly defensive when it comes to serious conversations, they also often exhibit a sense of being indestructible. With that in mind, engage the topic as a conversation – avoid lecturing. The potential danger is the same, but the way your teen receives the information you have to share is what will make all the difference.

Although this may feel like an especially tough subject to bring up and discuss with your teen or tween daughter, here are some suggestions for you to share with your child to help bring awareness and reduce the chance of her becoming a victim of date rape.

— Don’t accept open drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) from others who you do not know or do not trust; this includes drinks that come in a glass.

— When in bars or clubs always get your drink directly from the bartender and do not take your eyes off the bartender or your order; don’t use the waitress or let somebody go to the bar for you.

— At parties, only accept drinks in closed containers that have not been opened yet: bottles, cans or tetra packs.

— Never leave your drink unattended or turn your back on your drink.

–Do not drink from open sources like punch bowls, pitchers or tubs.

— Keep your eyes and ears open; if there is talk of date rape drugs or if friends seem “too intoxicated” for what they have ingested, leave the party or club immediately and don’t go back!

— At parties, only drink from a glass that you personally poured.

–Trust your feelings and if you feeling uncomfortable for any reason, leave the party.

Discuss with your child what to do if she is at a party or out on a date and she starts to feel dizzy, confused or rapidly becomes sick. Make it easy, comfortable, and safe for your child to contact you for a ride home. Oftentimes teens will not contact their parents for help for fear or getting ‘in trouble’ or being judged.

As a mom, you know it’s vitally important to keep the communication open with your child and remind them that while you may be angry with a decision they’ve made you will be there for them when they need you.

Encourage your child to discuss date and acquaintance rape as well as date rape drugs with her friends – the further the information goes, the safer our children are.

To learn more about date rape, how to help protect and inform your children, and what to do if your teenage daughter is a victim, visit the links below:

RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

National Sexual Assault Hotline1.800.656.HOPE

The National Center for Victims of Crime

After Silence – online support group

Girls Health: Date Rape Information and Resources – The Office of Women’s Health

Survivor of Date Rape – Church organization

Survivor Stories

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

The medical and legal process that occurs after someone has been a victim of sexual violence can often be intimidating and frightening – sometimes causing victims to withdraw from the process completely, and often resulting in under-reporting and lower prosecution rates for these crimes.

For someone who has already been traumatized physically, mentally, and emotionally their first contact after the fact is critical. SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) programs have emerged in the last few decades to provide patient-sensitive care and improve the medical-legal response to sexual assault victims. According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, “Forensic nurses also conduct evidentiary exams in cases involving other types of interpersonal violence, public health and safety, emergencies or trauma, patient care facilities, and police and corrections custody abuse.” SANEs are currently available to rape victims when they enter a hospital in many jurisdictions.

SANEs take the patient’s medical history, history of the assault, make a physical assessment of the patient that record wounds, collect and preserve all evidence, provide a treatment plan and also create a discharge plan for the patient.

These nurse examiners also testify in court cases as an expert witness in sexual assault cases.

But the emotional level of care a SANE provides goes well beyond forensics and paperwork. To learn more about this crucial link in the sexual assault survivor’s experience, Moms Fight Back spoke with Kim Day (RN, FNE, SANE-A, SANE-P and SAFEta Project Director) about the SANE program, her experiences as a SANE and why Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are so important to the sexual violence recovery process.

SEXUAL ASSAULT NURSE EXAMINERS: THE CRITICAL LINK FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

What kind of training does a SANE receive?

The training to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is one that occurs after the nurse is already a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice nurse (NP – Nurse Practitioner or CNW – Certified Nurse Midwife). IAFN Education Guidelines and the US Department of Justice National SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) Training Standards recommend 40 classroom hours of training followed by some sort of clinical experience to go with that.

I took the initial SANE training when we did not have a program at our local community hospital, and I recognized the better care that could be given (to victims) by a trained examiner, rather than just reading directions from the (sexual assault evidence kit) box.

A registered nurse can take training that includes victim interview skills, the rape crisis center process, crime scene investigation, the victim medical-legal examination, suspect interview process, laboratory analysis results, trial preparation, and mock trial. (Further information about this training program and process can be found here.)

SANEs are not, by profession, victim advocates however they do provide information to the victim about local sexual assault advocacy programs where the staff are trained and knowledgeable about a wide range of victim medical and legal needs.

Why are SANEs so important in sexual assault cases?

Recent studies have shown that prosecution rates in sexual assault cases have increased using SANEs as credible witnesses and due to the SANEs skilled forensic evidence collection.

Day concurs, “The research shows that the patient is more likely to feel better about the care they had in the healthcare system with a SANE- and they are more likely to participate in the criminal justice system if they do, also (and so, they individually heal better and as a community, the chance is that there will be a higher level of safety for all of us, when perpetrators are held accountable.

During the course of our talk, Day shared a personal story where she saw her training and work as a SANE making a difference: “I had a case where a victim was assaulted by a stranger (which in itself is unusual, as most sexual assaults are by people that are known in some way to the victim) and it was not until almost 8 years later that they identified the perpetrator, who had been arrested for another crime – he was identified by a CODIS hit- and he had also spent time in prison for a crime that was eerily similar to the one that he had committed against my patient. Many of our patients do not get resolution in the courtroom, however. It is important for the SANE to recognize that the care they deliver and the information and resources and support given to the patient at the time of the exam is essential to begin the process of healing.

A SANEs role is to assure that the person/patient/victim has their healthcare needs met, and to provide access to resources that can be critical to begin the healing process.

More resources:

To learn more about this crucial link in the justice system for sexual violence victims the Sexual Assault Resource Service (SARS) site offers information to individuals and institutions interested in developing new SANE programs as well as improving existing ones.

SAFE TA Helpline877-819-SART. The SAFE TA helpline provides technical assistance to service providers for victims of sexual assault and to the agencies which serve them. These may include: medical professionals, law enforcement officers, attorneys, victim advocates, and first responders.

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

Sexual perpetrators are more likely to use alcohol to subdue their sexual assault victims than guns, threats and fists, according to The Gazette. The issue of alcohol abuse and its role in sex crimes, particularly in the military, has caused the Department of Defense to redefine and label alcohol as a weapon. Today we will look at the background behind the new label, share a current case and explain what action is being taken to make a change.


Background Behind the New Label:

While alcohol has been known to be a contributing factor in sexual assault cases, an article in The Gazette stated that alcohol “is thought to play a role in nearly half of the almost 6,000 sexual assaults reported across the Defense Department last year.” A Task and Purpose article recorded Katherine Booth, chief trial deputy and chief of the Boulder District Attorney’s Office sexual assault unit, saying, “When you’re talking about the offender using alcohol as a way to gain entry to their victim, to get their victim into a vulnerable state to incapacitate them, that’s exactly what it is — they’re using it as a means of a weapon to get that access where they otherwise wouldn’t have that access.”

“20,000 of the military’s 1.3 million active-duty service members were the victims of at least one sexual assault in the past year, comprising 4.9% of women and 1% of men,” according to the 2014 RAND Military Workplace study. A Task and Purpose article focuses on alcohol as a significant factor in these cases. “Almost half of female service members who reported being sexually assaulted in the past year said they or their assailant had been drinking alcohol. One-fifth of male sexual assault victims in the military also reported the involvement of alcohol.” Task and Purpose stated that “Sexual predators who repeatedly feed drinks to unsuspecting victims with intent to commit sexual assault use alcohol as a weapon in two ways, according to Booth: to incapacitate them physically and mentally during the assault, and to discredit them if they go to the authorities.”

The Gazette shared that “In a December Pentagon report, the military calls alcohol a weapon in its latest sexual assault prevention guidance for commanders, echoing a statement made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in May.” It is important to note, however, that victims who had been drinking when the crime occurred are far less likely to report the attack.  Booth told The Gazette “This combination of alcohol and sex assault is often a huge factor in the underreporting of sexual assault. There is a ton of misplaced self-blame there.”

 

Alcohol Used as a Weapon – Trial in Boulder, Colorado:

In January, Air Force Academy junior cadet Daniel Ryerson was arrested and charged in state court with sexually assaulting an inebriated female classmate after a night of party-hopping in Boulder on November 1, 2014. The Gazette reports that Ryerson and the cadet victim reported that they had been drinking together before going to several parties. “During the parties, where police say Ryerson gained entry from strangers by offering alcohol, the woman told officers she consumed several drinks containing hard alcohol supplied by Ryerson.”

The article further explains that a witness at one of the parties who didn’t know Ryerson or the victim, said that “Ryerson escorted the stumbling female cadet into a bathroom where the two were behind a locked door for 20 minutes.” It is said that Ryerson carried the unconscious female cadet from the party. According to The Gazette, the “victim referred to Ryerson as her ‘wingman’ during a sexual assault exam at a hospital, according to court documents.”

According to an Out There Colorado article, Ryerson’s attorney, John K. Pineau, of Denver stated, “The Boulder County District Attorney has filed life sentence charges against cadet Ryerson.” He explained that Ryerson will be presumed innocent until there is evidence that can prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Pineau stated, “There is no such evidence.” However, the same article states that in the court papers the victim reported that she blacked out and woke up in a hotel room with Ryerson. The article states that “Although court papers say Ryerson denied having sex with the woman, DNA evidence emerged that tied him to the crime, court papers allege.”

Ryerson is currently out on bail and attending class at the academy. He cannot have any contact with the victim and is banned from possession of firearms. A preliminary hearing is set for March 12 in Boulder.

 

What Steps Are Being Taken to Make a Change?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for a review of alcohol policies in an attempt to diminish sexual violence. This effort involves a department-wide review of alcohol policies, revisions of the policies to more effectively address the risks involved with alcohol, including the risk of alcohol being used as a weapon. To clarify, it states in the Task and Purpose article, that “Booth isn’t arguing that alcohol should be legally defined as a deadly weapon in sex assault cases in the same sense as a knife held to a victim’s throat.” Booth stated, “Legally, there’s not going to be a legal definition that goes into encompassing alcohol as a per se weapon. But besides that, I still stand by my statement that alcohol is a weapon that is used in sexual assaults, and that is true; there’s a very close connection between alcohol and sexual assault.”

The Gazette reports that Air Force Academy and other military bases are advising workers who serve alcohol in clubs to watch for predators who may use alcohol as a weapon. Col. Kirstin Reimann, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon explained that another step involves training commanders to “work with community partners on responsible alcohol sales practices and bystander intervention training for alcohol servers.” Additionally, academy leaders have attended a presentation on sexual assault and how alcohol can be used as a weapon.

According to The Gazette, “Cadets took a pledge last fall to intercede if they see a classmate, or anyone else, at risk of sexual assault. Other work includes educating cadets on responsible drinking and giving more help to victims.” Academy spokesman, Lt. Col. Brus Vidal wrote about how challenging these issues are in an email to The Gazette, “The issues of binge drinking and sexual assault are complex, societal challenges that all colleges and universities across the nation struggle with. The academy, like all other college campuses, is not immune to these national problems, and we remain committed to addressing and eliminating both sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

Alcohol as a weapon

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

“I feel like I finally know who I am. Like I’ve grown wings.”

This is what one of the s (SAVA) clients had to say about the help they received. SAVA is a Colorado-based organization that focuses on crisis intervention, advocacy and counseling for people who have been affected by sexual violence. They provide support by offering prevention programs through community outreach and education. According to their website,

“Each year, SAVA provides confidential support to over 600 victims of sexual assault and provides education to over 1,000 community members and 4,000 students.”

They are the only rape crisis center in Larimer and Weld Counties. In this post we will dig in and discuss the various support services and prevention programs they offer.

 

Support Services:

SAVA provides support to those who have been sexually assaulted and to their loved ones. One of the organization’s main goals is to teach victims that it is not their fault if they were sexually assaulted. SAVA provides education, empowerment and confidential support that can make a world of difference in the lives of those impacted by sexual violence. One SAVA client proclaimed,

“Thanks for holding my hope while I couldn’t.  I think I’m ready to hold it for myself.” Another client said, “After my abuse that happened when I was a little boy, I grew up seeing so many things negatively.  It affected my life immensely, as well as my family, and my friends.  SAVA has been instrumental in turning it all around.  There’s a lot more sunny days now thanks to their patience with me.”


Their Support Services include:

24-Hour Rape Crisis Hotline: Call (970) 472-4200 or (877) 352-7273 at any time to get help. Confidential support is provided by trained advocates free of charge for all survivors and their loved ones.

Individual Advocacy: Medical and legal support available on an individual basis.

Therapy: Those who have been affected by sexual assault can receive sliding scale and confidential therapy.

Support Groups: Those who were sexually assaulted or their loved ones can participate in weekly support groups.


There are two specific types of support categories:

Direct/Primary Victim Services: SAVA offers accessible, inclusive therapy and support services to sexual violence victims no matter their income, gender, sexual orientation, etc. According to their website, “SAVA provides help for individuals ages 14 and up who have experienced rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, exposure, or voyeurism.” These individuals have access to crisis intervention, victim advocacy (legal and medical), clinical therapy and private support groups. This support is available whether they were recently abused or if the abuse happened years ago. Depending on the individual’s circumstances, services are offered free of charge or on a sliding-scale fee basis.

A SAVA client explained what the organization has done for them, “I think the thing SAVA and its amazing people have helped me the most with is the ability to change the internal dialogue about myself and about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.  When thoughts creep into my head that I’m unlovable, broken, or undeserving, all I have to do is think about all the effort I have put into my healing and all the care, support, and knowledge I have received from SAVA, and I know without a doubt that those thoughts are not true.  SAVA helped me to believe that I deserve joy, happiness, and support from all the good people in my life.”

Secondary Survivors: If you have a loved one who has been sexually assaulted, it can be very hard to know how to help them and how to handle the feelings you experience. The SAVA website discusses the many feelings you might be experiencing like guilt, shame and helplessness. They offer tips and coaching on how to effectively support your loved one. The SAVA website encourages secondary victims to listen patiently, believe what the victim is telling you and show support by being reassuring and helping them get professional assistance.

 

Prevention Programs:

SAVA has three core prevention programs: SuperWorld Empowerment Running Program, Speak Up! for middle school groups, and Sexual Assault Resource Team Peer Education.

SuperWorld Empowerment Running Program: “The SuperWorld Empowerment Running programs provide girls and boys ages 8-12 with developmentally appropriate and gender-specific sessions to support self-esteem, healthy relationships and social action while training to complete a 5K (3.1 mile) running event.” Each boy and girl is paired with an adult volunteer mentor who supports them throughout the program and the race.

Speak Up!: 8th grade students in middle schools in Poudre School District in Fort Collins and Thompson School District in Loveland have access to this program.  Speak Up! includes discussions, art projects, writing activities, movie clips and experiential games. All 8th grade students within these schools watch a presentation about gender violence and how to prevent it at the beginning of the school year. Students can then join the group to participate in gender-specific sessions on a weekly basis with parent permission. Tanner, a Speak up! participant said,

“What I like about this class is how we can talk about stuff that we can’t in class and that it makes me feel comfortable to talk about what is going on in my life.  I can use what this class teaches me in the future by talking more openly with people and it teaches me how to help people.”

Another participant said,

“It’s amazing.  I love knowing once a week I can come talk to anyone and the things we talk about stay in here.”

SART Peers: “Sexual Assault Resource Team is a peer-led education program created specifically for middle and high school students. The SART Program’s mission is to reduce the incidence of sexual violence among youth through peer education and community support.” Participants are able to discuss topics like the roots of violence and oppression, sexism and gender stereotypes during community presentations. These student-led classes teach participants how to support victims and how to stand up for what is right.

 

SAVA is tirelessly working to create a culture change that results in the end of sexual violence. Their support services and prevention programs are making a difference for thousands of people in Colorado. If you would like to help with their mission and become a volunteer, you can either fill out the application or find more information on their website.

SAVA

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

Check the news any day of the week and you’ll likely find a story about someone being prosecuted and sentenced for sexual assault. It’s sadly commonplace in our society to read stories of justice being served against rapists and child molesters. These news flashes have become so common that it’s deceptively reassuring; almost comforting to be presented with a system that seems, for all intents and purposes, to work.

The bad guys break the law; the bad guys are arrested; the bad guys go before a judge; the bad guys go to jail. Right?

Unfortunately, the system built around our social norms, mores, and laws doesn’t always work that way. In fact, when it comes to sexual assault, more often than not it doesn’t work at all.

For every 100 rapes in the United States only 8 rapists will be prosecuted, and of those 8 only 3 will spend even a single day in prison.

 

Only 3 for every 100 rapists will ever spend  a day in jail

With hundreds of thousands of sexual assault crimes going unreported and/or unprosecuted every year, it’s something of an epidemic this lack of justice. There are numerous factors in any individual case that may contribute to it’s not being prosecuted – starting with victims choosing not to report the crime in the first place. The shame, fear, and stigma attached to being victimized can preclude any possibility of justice being served.

Those victims who do call police or visit the hospital to file a report are injected into a process that is not designed to meet their needs and is run by people who have not been properly trained to deal with the potential emotional volatility of sex crimes. In some cases the crime is ‘mislabeled’ or deemed closed without investigation based on the responding officer’s perspective of the situation. Victims at one college reportedpoor responses and insensitive questioning by local law enforcement, including not being believed, being blamed for inviting the assault and being discouraged from going to the hospital.

Assuming the case IS successfully reported and received as a sexual assault crime, the sexual assault interview process continues. Sex crime victims understandably arrive at these interviews anxious and uncomfortable. Mixing improperly trained investigators with already upset victims creates a cycle of “the victim shutting down, leading to an increasingly judgmental detective, to an increasingly withdrawing victim.”

It can also take literally months for a rape kit to be processed (there is currently a backlog of over 400,000 rape kits waiting to be processed) – leaving the victim waiting, internalizing, and waiting some more. During this time many victims decide not to pursue the case.

For younger sexual assault victims the difficulty in simply ‘telling’ stretches into an issue around the statute of limitations for such crimes. For civil cases, New York requires people who allege they were abused as minors to come forward by age 23. In Virginia, which has no limit on bringing felony charges. Alabama, Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming are among the states with no statute of limitation for sexual assault, according to a table compiled by the National Association of District Attorneys. Hawaii has the shortest statute of limitation: just three years for all sexual assault crimes, except first-degree sexual assault.

As if the trauma of living through a sexual assault wasn’t enough – victims who do choose to step forward and pursue justice in their cases are forced to navigate a system that is not equipped or prepared to handle their needs physically, emotionally, or judiciously.

“It’s difficult enough to deal with the physical and emotional effects of having to fight to protect yourself from the person who hurt you,” says one woman, “But to also have to fight the system that’s supposed to protect you is too much. It’s why so many women back off.”

Justice Women

This article, like the issue at hand, does not have a tidy ending. There is no way to ‘wrap up’ a piece on the re-victimization of our society’s victims of sexual assault – but let’s use this opportunity and the facts as they are to open a dialog and begin to answer the question ‘How can we do this better?’ ‘How DO we protect the victims from a faulty system?’ ‘How do we create justice for those who have been sexually assaulted?’

Resources:

There are few resources related to “navigating the system” for victims of sexual assault and their advocates – one such resource is the Online Handbook | Advocating for Women in the Criminal Justice System in Cases of Rape, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse from Justice Women. This online handbook includes full-text sections devoted to:

Advocating for Victims of Sex Crimes During the Police Investigation

Advocating for Victims of Violence Against Women at the District Attorney’s Office

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Justice Its About Our Children

This piece was submitted to our 100K STORIES PROJECT by an anonymous protective mom.

What You Don’t Know About Who’s Involved in Your Family Law Case Can Harm You and Your Children

January 2015: I remember the very first interaction with my Court appointed psychologist known as a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator or PRE.  I had made the grave mistake of not researching this individual to challenge her appointment prior to my case and only after the fact,  I sat bravely before her and shared with her my astounding results found on the internet of other’s evaluations about her.  I told the PRE that I shouldn’t be here, that I didn’t ask for this and that my ex’s accusation of me having a mental disorder that impacted my ability to make decisions for my daughter was untrue. The PRE’s response; “You’re so naive and any complaints that have been filed against me have been dropped”.  Little did I know that PRE’s are out of DORA’s jurisdiction and that there is no regulation of their conduct or behavior.  This PRE knew it and thus she was conducting her business how she chose to do without any professional oversight or consequence.

After several months with this psychologist, the PRE report which was filed with the Court, recommended that I lose decision-making authority for a period of two years.  Although this appeared to be unjust as there was nothing about my parenting or contributions as an Educator where I should lose any of my parental rights, I was working with an attorney at this time and was told that this would most likely be the Court outcome.  They were ever so wrong.

At my trial, with the prompting of opposing counsel, the PRE was reminded to change her position from supporting her filed PRE report and appeared to proceed as a hostile witness.  She had recommended therapy for me in the PRE report but then at trial made comments that “no therapy could help me” and changed her position from two years in the filed report to an unknown amount of time telling the Court that she had merely “erred” in in her original report.  When it was pointed out that I had already engaged in the report’s recommendations made by her, she responded that “I was just trying to look good”.  This PRE also stated that SOMB standards needed to be applied to my family which is a Colorado regulatory agency for convicted and registered sex offenders.  Not a single member of my family has ever been accused of or tried for sexual molestation and no member is in the registry for convicted sex offenders; not one of my family members was interviewed by this PRE before she came to this conclusion.  The PRE made the reference that I did not protect my daughter form earlier home visits and did not demonstrate that I was able to protect my daughter with my decisions.  The Court responded with orders that placed a SOMB safety plan on my daughter that also involved several of my family members and that denies my now seven-year-old daughter from participating in full family functions to celebrate our ethnicity and the holidays.

This PRE stated to the Court that I was placing my interests above my daughter when selecting the choice of an elementary school with a gifted and talented program, where afterward my daughter tested as a gifted and talented child going into her first grade.  The PRE also claimed that I lacked understanding of the developmental needs of children although I hold two licenses in the state of Colorado and New York to teach children grades K-12th grade.

The PRE also shared with the Court that I had a histrionic personality disorder and believed that I “was above” my daughter’s play therapist when I requested that my daughter be shown another way to express herself other than hitting the therapist’s body with a play sword. I had shared with the therapist that my then 4 and a half-year-old daughter was working on keeping hands to herself at daycare where hitting had become an issue and I also knew that she had currently watched the movie; “How To Train a Dragon.”  The PRE told the Court that she had never heard of anyone challenging a therapist of their conduct in all of her years, which supported her false diagnosis of me demonstrating histrionic behavior before the Court.

I’m an Educator of 24 years to current.  I follow rules, live with integrity, do what is expected of me and teach my students the same.  The defamation of character that I experienced left me traumatized in the courtroom. My attorney who had become physically ill that morning, resulting in seizure-like activity during my trial, failed to protect me from the vacillating and contradictory testimony of this PRE, from the false hearsay statements made by my ex and not a single piece of evidence from my 246 page evidence book was submitted to defend myself and/or provide the needed offense.

The Courts decision was that I lost decision making authority for an unknown amount of time with unknown circumstances that could reverse this decision.  I was fined a $1000 bond to post to Court for violating the parent plan without supporting evidence and I was ordered to pay attorney fees.  I experienced what so many of you have.  That something like this would never happen to me and I had several consults with attorneys prior to my trial who promised me that there was not enough against me to satisfy the” best interest child statute” that would result in me losing decision making rights.

Conclusively after my trial I had both the PRE report and PRE’s testimony evaluated by a forensic expert.  The results was that my test data was exaggerated and there were no findings to support any disorder.  My Court ordered therapist concluded his therapy with me also stating that I was absent of any disorder that effected my ability to make decisions or to protect my daughter and that I appeared to understand the needs of children both as a parent and an Educator.

I received numerous consults afterwards and attempted three appeals as a pro se party and was denied all efforts.  I was told by many that there’s nothing that I can do and one retired District Court judge, during a consultation, grabbed me gently by the arm and said “some things are better left at rest”.

I’m not quitting on my daughter or my family.  A friend send me a link to Heid Ganahl’s Comeback story on U-Tube and this was finally something that made sense to me, and I immediately contacted Mom’s Fight Back.  I’m a member of the PLJC community and I’m dedicated to seeing family law reform through.  I was alone when I started this journey and have since found others who share my passion and dedication for family law justice.

Lack of Regulation for the PRE’s:

After the results of my trial I began to investigate further my Court appointed psychologist and the online reviews I found were astounding.  Words like sociopath, incompetent, sloppy and evil were just some used to describe my PRE.  I eventually did what others online were encouraged to do and filed a complaint to DORA; the Department of Regulatory Agencies here in Colorado.  Months later I received a response from them that PRE’s are out of their jurisdiction and my complaint was dismissed.

I then began to search for who and what does regulate these individuals with my search ending up at the Supreme Court library where they finally helped me conclude my search and to realize the fact that there are no regulations or any identified agency that regulates the behaviors of Court appointed psychologists in Colorado.

What To Do?

I began to reach out to others and learned of more stories of harm being caused by some PRE’s appointed to family law cases.   I  was able to eventually connect to other parents who even shared the same PRE as myself!  We reached out to others and now have connections to legislation to bring forth this issue for the need of the establishment of regulation of PRE’s.

We Need Your Help:  We are currently collecting documentation to show the pattern of harm caused by the lack of regulation of PRE’s that will support this matter before legislation.  Numbers greatly matter; there is power in numbers and a greater chance to create real changes with documented cases.

If your family matter involved a PRE whose conduct you believe  resulted in harm to you, your family or your children, please share you story here at: parents for family law justice Colorado.  All information will be kept for documentation purposes only and you may give your consent if you wish to have your story published.

Please contribute where you may to support the children harmed in family law cases.  Join efforts to create some long overdue changes for children and families harmed by family law; be a part of the solution and participate in creating the comeback for your children and others!

 

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Author Archives: Alex Eckhart

More than 1 million Coloradans have been sexually assaulted, according to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA). But CCASA believes that there are millions more people who can come together to make a difference. According to their website, CCASA “is a membership organization promoting safety, justice, and healing for survivors while working toward the elimination of sexual violence.” Their goal is to show support to survivors, strive to hold perpetrators accountable and to take positive action to create an end to sexual violence. Their services and efforts are extensive and in this post we will share with you a bit about what they are doing to make a difference, how you can get involved and how to get immediate help for sexual assault victims.

What kinds of things is CCASA doing to make a difference?

The CCASA website states,

“We believe that every survivor of sexual violence deserves to be believed, supported, and experience healing. The effects reach even further—to families, to friends, to co-workers, to neighbors…to all of us.  This is a community issue that requires a community solution.”

CCASA stands by the fact that sexual violence is a significant issue that influences the lives of millions of people. Their goal is to provide services, support and advocacy to truly create positive change. 2014 was the organization’s 30th year of helping sexual assault survivors and they continue to make a difference in a variety of ways.

Policy Successes: Since CCASA was established in 1984, one of their priorities has been to make progress on the public policy front of sexual violence. The organization’s efforts include drafting, reviewing and lobbying for legislation and polices that demand improvement. CCASA was instrumental in the success of the following legislation:

  • “Eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse.”
  • “Criminalizing marital rape.”
  • “Instituting lifetime supervision for sex offenders and creating the sex offender registry.”
  • “Clarifying mandatory reporting laws to ensure confidentiality for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”
  • “Creating the Sexual Assault Victim Emergency (SAVE) Payment Program.”

*You can read the full list of legislation here.

Comprehensive Training & Resources: The CCASA 2013 Annual Report provided a closer look at all of the accomplishments they have had recently. Through their Training and Technical Assistance Program they provided training to more than 2,000 CCASA members and other sexual assault service providers/responders in Colorado. Their goal with these efforts was to help provide consistent, comprehensive and victim-centered responses to sexual assault statewide. They also held collaborative regional trainings throughout Colorado. These seminars focused on strengthening civilian/ military partnerships and improving services for incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse. In their effort to raise awareness they published and distributed nearly 4,000 brochures and handbooks regarding sexual assault and CCASA services and resources.

The resources the organization provides are vital to making a real difference in the lives of survivors. We asked Brie Akins, an Executive Director at CCASA, about the most used resources on the CCASA website, and she shared, “I would say that our blog is our most used resource with the survivor handbook being a close second.”

How can I get involved?

CCASA offers many ways to get involved, ranging from simply signing up for the organization’s emails, to attending an event, and officially becoming a member. Since this is a membership-based organization, the support received from members is vital to the progress made.

Here is a look at the two membership options:

Individual Membership: Individual members interested in helping with the statewide efforts and who desire access to general member benefits are welcome to join. Individual members have access to a limited number of CCASA publications and are invited to serve on committees and to speak at the state level on behalf of the organization.

Agency Membership: This membership level is ideal for agencies or an office/department within an agency that would like access to CCASA resources and services for their staff, volunteers and clients. This membership gives them access to bulk bundles of CCASA publications and admission to CCASA events at a discounted cost. Of course, members are encouraged to participate on committees and speak at the state level.

As a member, you can be involved with any of the following committees:

  • Public Policy Committee: “Participants are needed to share feedback on how pending legislation may potentially impact Victims/Survivors and Service Providers in our state.” Visit the Public Policy webpage.
  • CCASA Blog Committee: “The CCASA Blog Committee is comprised of CCASA members who oversee the CCASA blog posts, outreach, and branding. The purpose of the CCASA Blog is to create a conversation among members, partners and the general public about issues related to sexual violence prevention.” Check out the CCASA Blog!
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month Committee: “This committee creates and implements a statewide SAAM theme, messaging, events, and other materials for distribution to CCASA membership.”
  • Inclusive Team: This group “works to enhance the organization’s core value of anti-oppression and social justice which states: CCASA recognizes that sexual assault and oppression are intricately linked and is committed to grappling with the complexities of societal power and privilege in order to create inclusive policies and practices.”
  • Fundraising and Events Committee: This group’s primary goal is to “raise funds and plan events to broaden support for CCASA in the community.”

Help for Sexual Assault Victims:

We asked Akins about the one thing she wants people to know when it comes to sexual assault. She said,

Help is available. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, don’t suffer silently – get help now.”

CCASA makes a valiant effort to raise awareness about the help they offer and to ensure that those in need get the help they are looking for. The Get Help page discusses the first steps of getting help, the victims’ options and also an interactive map that provides information on rape crisis resources and support organizations within Colorado. In addition, you can read articles published by CCASA or access their library of information on the Research and Articles page within their website. The Tools for Healing page “is meant to give survivors of sexual assault and their family and friends new resources for hope, healing and happiness.”

Moms Fight Back is proud of all that CCASA is doing to create freedom from sexual violence in Colorado communities. They offer so many more services and resources than we could possibly cover in this post. Visit their website for more information and feel free to contact them directly

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)

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