IN THE NEWS-2020
To see a yearly archive of CHILD USA in the news, click a year from below
As deadline nears, adults flood Arizona courts with lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse
Lauren Castle | December 30, 2020
Hundreds of civil lawsuits by people who allege they suffered abuse as children are being filed in Arizona’s courts as a year-end deadline looms for them to seek justice.
Many of those filing are listed in court documents simply as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.”
They have filed civil complaints against priests, teachers, volunteers, the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Boy Scout councils, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other institutions.
Abused in Boy Scouts: Deadline to file claims before bankruptcy approaching
Nicole Crites | November 12, 2020
Anyone who was sexually abused as a child in the Boy Scouts of America now has less than a week to file a claim against them in court.
Arizona’s Family has been following the developments since before the organization officially filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
The Chapter 11 filing forced the courts to set a deadline for any further claims as they consolidate assets. And the number of survivors coming forward is believed to be four times what we’ve seen with the Catholic Church sex crimes cases.
The Vatican’s Theodore McCarrick report: Eight things you need to know
Michelle Boorstein | November 10, 2020
The Vatican on Tuesday released a much-anticipated report about Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington who was defrocked after allegations of sexual misconduct with adults and minors. Here’s what you need to know:
Due to statute of limitations, Florida AG’s Catholic Church inquiry ends in no new arrests
Danielle Waugh | November 9, 2020
The Florida Attorney General’s Office ended a two-year investigation into the Catholic Church, and while prosecutors identified 97 Florida priests accused of sexual abuse, not a single priest or church official will face charges.
“Prosecution of those allegations is barred by either the applicable statute of limitations or intervening death of the accused priest,” thenewly released report states.
The CBS12 News I-Team analyzed the list of accused priests in the AG’s report and found at least 11 had ties to the Palm Beach area.
As BSA Abuse Cases Rise, Study Suggests Scouting is Unsafe for Children
Eric Chaffin | November 2, 2020
As the deadline to file a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) sexual abuse claim approaches, a recent report in the New York Post estimates that as many as 50,000 alleged victims are likely to come forward.
Because of an increasing number of lawsuits and decreasing membership, the BSA filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020. As part of the proceedings, the bankruptcy judge set a deadline of November 16, 2020, for victims to file a claim against the national organization. At the start of October, about 35,000 victims had already done so.
Boy Scouts abuse claims may become largest case against a single national organization
Rachel Axon & Cara Kelly | October 23, 2020
As a Nov. 16 deadline looms for abuse survivors to come forward to make claims in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy, a judge’s ruling could allow the case to become the largest-ever child sexual abuse case against a single national organization.
Late last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein allowed the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice to join mediation discussions, giving a group representing 28,000 clients a say in any future settlement.
She gave birth to her rapist’s child, then tried to sever his parental rights in Pa. The law was not on her side.
Jo Ciavaglia | October 20, 2020
The first time M.E. was raped by the man she believed was her father, she was a preschooler.
She became pregnant for the first time with his child while she was a high school senior.
She was 23 and mother to two children when she gathered the courage to go to police with her story of decades of sexual abuse.
Twin hit of abuse claims and pandemic could push NJ Catholic dioceses toward bankruptcy
By Deena Yellin | October 19, 2020
For Catholic churches around the country, it has become a familiar refrain: After shelling out millions of dollars in settlements to survivors of clergy abuse, a diocese says it’s broke and declares bankruptcy.
Child sex trafficking is a problem, but QAnon isn’t helping
Erica Evans | October 17, 2020
On a sweltering day in early September, about 15 people stood outside the Utah state Capitol with signs covered in red handprints that said, “#SaveOurChildren” and “End Child Trafficking.” Every few minutes, a car driving by the small-scale protest honked in support.
#SaveOurChildren is a social media movement that has gained traction this year across platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Marches have been organized in cities all over the country, from Spokane, Washington, to Reed City, Michigan. While many well-meaning individuals with genuine concern have jumped in to support the movement, anti-child trafficking advocates warn that #SaveOurChildren is not what it seems.
Foster kids lived with molesters. No one told their parents.
Josh Salman, Daphne Chen & Pat Beall | October 16, 2020
Inside his double-wide trailer off a swampy north Florida road, longtime foster father Rick Hazel repeatedly raped a child in his care, taking videos of the molestation and hiding a camera in the bathroom to watch her shower.
Unaware of the abuse, caseworkers continued to pack the mobile home beyond capacity with children. For seven years, foster kids came and went, at times living in such cramped quarters that at least one child slept with Hazel and his wife in the master bedroom.
50,000 alleged sex-abuse victims expected to sue the Boy Scouts
Kathianne Boniello | October 10, 2020
As many as 50,000 alleged sex-abuse victims are expected to go after the Boy Scouts of America in court ahead of a November legal deadline, as a shocking new study concludes scouting just isn’t safe for kids.
Since the Boys Scouts of America’s February bankruptcy filing, about 35,000 alleged victims across the nation have filed claims, with “thousands” more emerging each week ahead of the Nov. 16 deadline.
Across U.S. Catholic archdioceses, child protection policies vary widely
Michele Berger | October 2, 2020
Although the 32 Catholic archdioceses in the United States have some sort of policy to protect children from clergy sex abuse, the content and quality of these policies varies, with little to no standardization across the board, according to a new report from the nonprofit think tank CHILD USA, founded and led by Penn’s Marci Hamilton.
“We live in a time where everyone is asking, How do we prevent child sex abuse in every institution, whether that’s the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church or at boarding schools,” says Hamilton, a national expert on child sex abuse and the Fels Institute of GovernmentProfessor of Practice. “In the past decade, some of the bishops have claimed to have the ‘gold standard’ for child protection and thus should no longer be subject to scrutiny or criticism for their past problems with child sexual abuse. We decided to examine the evidence.”
MAJ supports bill to expand civil statutes of limitation for survivors of sexual assault
October 1, 2020
Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ) President Donna MacKenzie on Sept. 23 issued the following statement in support of a package of bills introduced by State Representatives Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township), Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights), and Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) to ensure all survivors of sexual assault in Michigan receive the justice they deserve. The bills would eliminate the civil statute of limitations if there is a criminal prosecution that results in a conviction. They also enable all survivors to file claims against their abusers up to age 48 or seven years from the time the survivor realized they were abused, whichever is later.
Report finds flaws in Catholic Church abuse-prevention plans
David Crary |October 1, 2020
Child-protection policies adopted by Roman Catholic leaders to curb clergy sex abuse in the United States are inconsistent and often worryingly incomplete, according to a think tank’s two-year investigation encompassing all 32 of the country’s archdioceses.
The analysis by Philadelphia-based CHILD USA said the inconsistencies and gaps suggest a need for more detailed mandatory standards for addressing sexual abuse of children by priests and other church personnel, a problem that has beset the church for decades and resulted in many criminal investigations, thousands of lawsuits and bankruptcy filings by numerous dioceses.
Handling of abuse allegations divides AG candidates
John Finnerty | September 25, 2020
Heather Heidelbaugh, Republican candidate for Attorney General, said current attorney general Josh Shapiro should not have publicized the names of priests who weren’t charged but were accused of molesting children in a grand jury report detailing the abuse of at least 1,000 children across the state over decades.
Hardly any of the priests named in the report were charged because the crimes occurred so long ago that the state’s statute of limitations had expired. Efforts to open a window to allow survivors of child sex crimes to sue despite the statute of limitations have stalled, though the General Assembly could vote next year to put a Constitutional amendment question about opening a window for lawsuits on the ballot.
CHEER EMPIRE: A for-profit company built competitive cheer, pays people who make its rules
Daniel Connolly | September 18, 2020
Modern competitive cheerleading has developed a huge following, and its popularity can be largely traced to one company: Varsity Spirit, based in Memphis, Tennessee. Jeff Webb founded the company in 1974 and helped turn cheerleading into a more athletic endeavor, with a gymnastics-based style featuring high-flying stunts and competitions at Disney World that draw thousands of participants.
But Varsity’s imprint on cheerleading extends beyond the clothing, camps and competitions emblazoned with its logo.
Varsity’s reach extends inside the organizations that govern the sport.
Boys & Girls Clubs releases review of child sex abuse prevention
Hannah Dellinger | August 4, 2020
Local affiliates of Boys & Girls Clubs of America do not uniformly respond to reports of sexual misconduct according to a third-party review of the organization’s policies made public Tuesday.
While the organization has enhanced policies to prevent abuse over the years, its programming is not consistently implemented at local clubs, according to a summary of the review, conducted by law firm Alston & Bird and the nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
Camden’s Roman Catholic diocese suspends payments to clergy abuse victims, citing COVID-19 financial stress
Jeremy Roebuck | July31, 2020
Citing financial losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden said Friday that it would halt payments from a clergy sex-abuse victim fund that has paid out nearly $7.6 million.
In a statement, the diocese said it had suffered a “precipitous decline in revenue” and was rapidly approaching a point where it would not be able to continue to borrow money to pay authorized awards.
“These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves, which, now more than ever, are so essential,” it read.
Pastor Let His Professed Pedophile Son Work With Kids
By Carol Kuruvilla | July 14, 2020
The leaders of a California evangelical megachurch are under fire for bungling the church’s response to a youth ministry volunteer’s confession that he was attracted to minors.
John Ortberg, the senior pastor at California’s Menlo Church, allowed his son to continue working with children, despite the confession.
Child pornography tips to N.J. police surge during pandemic
By Joe Hernandez | June 1, 2020
The uptick occurring in New Jersey mirrors what is happening nationwide. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a staggering 318% surge in tips this April compared to the same time last year, although some of that increase was due to several child sexual abuse videos that went viral on social media.
Marci Hamilton, CEO of the advocacy group Child USA, said online child predators are more likely to target children when they’re at home and unsupervised, and persuade them to engage in sexual activity either virtually or in person.
David v. Goliath: Marci Hamilton, Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, has faced down institutional child abuse for decades—and she is just getting started.
By Blake Cole | May 22, 2020
When I sat down with Marci Hamilton this past winter, she was busy preparing to fly to Iowa, then a political hotbed with the caucuses fast approaching. Hamilton, as always, was laser-focused on developing new means to keep children safe, and who better to appeal to than presidential candidates? “This should be a bipartisan issue,” she says, “but in so many cases, adults think more about protecting adults.”
St. Paul Archdiocese has strong protection policies, review finds
By Jean Hopfensperger | May 15, 2020
The child protection policies of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are among the best in the nation, but improvements can be made in areas such as staff training and background checks, according to a review released Friday by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
The 79-page report compared the archdiocese’s written child protection policies to those of the other 31 U.S. archdioceses. It was conducted by Child USA, a child abuse research group based in Philadelphia.
USA Swimming To Settle Sex Abuse Lawsuit Filed By Former Olympian
By Editor | March 11, 2020
Marci Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that state laws are empowering sexual abuse survivors to hold institutions accountable in ways that didn’t exist just a few years ago. For example, California, the state where Kukors Smith resides and where she filed her lawsuit, has increased the penalties covering up instances of sexual abuse.
“They are permitting treble damages,” Hamilton says, “which is to say whatever damages the victim can prove showing the harm that was done, you multiply that times three, if there was a coverup.”
Corey Feldman looks to name names, and move forward, with sexual abuse documentary (My) Truth
Rosy Cordero | March 04, 2020
The actor tells EW he’s ready to expose his childhood abusers in new documentary (My) Truth: The Rape of 2 Coreys.
Feldman has also been working as an ambassador for the nonprofit group Child USA to advocate for victim’s rights and change laws governing statutes of limitations. In October, the group scored a victory when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218, which grants victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to report allegations and file a lawsuit. In cases where abuse was covered up, victims could also be entitled to triple the damages.
Why aren’t Ohio officials investigating Catholic sex abuse cases?
Danae King | March 02, 2020
But when asked why Ohio doesn’t investigate the issue, state officials point to a home-rule law stating that county prosecutors must request such an investigation before the attorney general can initiate it.
Home rule isn’t a reason not to investigate the issue on a state level, said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of CHILD USA, a Philadelphia-based think tank tracking state efforts on child abuse.
New Colorado bill tackles sex abuse and the statute of limitations
Michael Karlik | March 1, 2020
Into the summer, the group of coalition members met roughly once per month, with Simmons meeting more frequently with individual contributors. Approximately eight different victim advocacy groups were represented. Calls were made to CHILD USA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that chronicles efforts to reform sex abuse statutes of limitations.
N.H. Senate bill would end statute of limitations on sexual assault lawsuits
Mia Summerson | February 28, 2020
Christopherson pointed out that the average reporting age for child sexual assault of 52 — a statistic from the nonprofit think tank Child USA — is well beyond 30, and added that the current statute of limitations isn’t appropriate for how these situations “actually play out.”