April recognized as Child Abuse Prevention month

JACKSON – April is recognized nationally as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Catholic Church across America use this month as a way to reinforce the message that the Catholic Church is committed to protecting children. The following is from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and reflects both diocesan and national promise to protect and pledge to heal.

You Can Help

You can help prevent the abuse of children. Know the warning signs of offenders. They prefer to be with children. They go overboard touching, wrestling or tickling. They may give minors alcohol or drugs or show them pornography. They allow children to break the rules. Offenders act as if the rules do not apply to them.

If you observe an adult who is not behaving appropriately with children, speak up. Let someone know what you saw. You are not accusing anyone of anything. You are letting someone know you care, are watching, and are concerned that no harm is done to a child.

You Can Get Help

Abuse is never the fault of the person harmed. It is always the responsibility of the offender. The reality is that most victims of abuse know their abuser. One in four females and one in six males report being abused as a minor.

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse there are things you can do, even if the abuse happened years ago. Call the police to report the abuse. If the abuser was in a position of authority in an organization, you should also report the abuse to that organization. If the abuse happened in a Catholic church or school, contact Valerie McClellan, Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Jackson, at 601-326-3728.

The Charter

In Dallas in June of 2002, the bishops of the United States adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter is the plan of action developed by the bishops to address the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Part One- To Promote Healing and Reconciliation with Victims/Survivors of Abuse

The wording of the Charter is very clear on the importance the bishops place on their responsibility to help victims find healing and reconciliation. It states, “The first obligation of the Church with regard to victims is for healing and reconciliation.” Outreach takes a variety a forms including extensive therapy, apology meetings, spiritual retreats, and Masses for healing.

In 2016, outreach was provided to 1,760 victims and their families.

Part Two- To Guarantee an Effective Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors

All dioceses are to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors to public authorities. All clergy who have been found guilty or admitted guilt are permanently removed from ministry. There are clear standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries for all clergy employees, and volunteers.

Part Three- To Ensure the Accountability of Our Procedures

The mission of the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People is to advise the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on all matters related to child and youth protection. The Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection was established in 2002 by the USCCB. The National Review Board is a consultative body that reviews the work of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and advises the president of the USCCB. In addition, each diocese has a review board to advise its bishop in his assessment of allegations and in his determination of a cleric’s suitability for ministry. To prove their commitment to accountability, dioceses undergo an annual audit conducted by an outside auditor.

Part Four- To Protect the Faithful in the Future

Dioceses train clergy, employees and volunteers to create and maintain safe environments for children. The backgrounds of clergy, employees, and volunteers are evaluated to determine if someone should be allowed around children and young people.

More than two million parish employees and volunteers, and 4.2 million children have been Safe Environment trained to recognize the behavior offenders and what to do about it. Training was also provided to 159,764 educators, 258,978 other employees, 35,475 priests, 16,294 deacons and 6,847 candidates for ordination.

Background evaluations have been conducted on more than 2 million parish volunteers and Church personnel who have contact with children. Seminary screening has been tightened and transfers among dioceses of clergy who have committed abuse against minors are forbidden.

Human trafficking workshop raises awareness, lays groundwork for action

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – More than 70 people gathered at Christ United Methodist Church on Saturday, April 9, for a one-day conference on human trafficking with a focus on Mississippi and the Jackson area. The event brought together law enforcement personnel, teachers, clinicians, childcare and non-profit workers and concerned people. Two presenters spoke about how to recognize trafficking and how to help the victims and local organizations shared what they are doing to address the issue.

Almost 80 people attended a one-day human trafficking workshop at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson. Organizers hope to use the awareness to spur action on the issue (Photos courtesy of Debb Tubbs)

Almost 80 people attended a one-day human trafficking workshop at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson. Organizers hope to use the awareness to spur action on the issue (Photos courtesy of Debb Tubbs)

Debb Tubb, communications director for Christ United Methodist Church, attended an awareness gathering last year called “Not in my city, not in my state.” “After I heard the stories I just had to ask myself, what is the next step?” She started speaking with Courtney Layson, the counselor on staff at the church, and they came up with this workshop in partnership with several other organizations. Ashleee Lucas, a representative from Shared Hope International, partnered with the church to identify speakers.
Last year, Belhaven University conducted a rapid assessment of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) in Rankin, Hinds, Madison and Warren counties. The report found that while awareness of this issue is on the rise, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. “The consensus is that central Mississippi is not equipped to care for victims of child trafficking. There are no shelters that specialize in the needs of DMST victims. Many victims slip through the cracks or are mislabeled as juvenile delinquents because some first responders do not recognize the profile of a DMST victim,” reads the introduction.
The report goes on to explain that the most common kind of trafficking found in Mississippi is perpetrated within families – with relatives offering children to predators in exchange for drugs, money or goods. In some cases the victims are charged with crimes rather than being protected or rescued from their situations. Awareness within the community, training first responders, laws that specifically protect and address this issue and funding for treatment and training are all needed, according to the report.
People who attended the conference heard from Elizabeth Scaife, director of Shared Hope International, and Dr. Rebecca Johnson, of International Justice Mission. Sessions included training on profiling traffickers and victims, understanding the trauma the victims undergo “with our heads and our hearts,” gang trafficking and trauma care for victims. Local organizations involved in starting to address this problem were also on hand. A couple from Crossgates Baptist Church talked about their effort, Ministry 639, which offers care-package backpacks to suspected victims and tries to offer them resources.
Tubb said she was surprised about some of what she has learned about trafficking. “Just for me it was disturbing to learn that during the golf tournament that brought so many people to town the ‘back pages’ ads spiked,” she said. Back pages are websites known for offering prostitutes, often minors. “When events bring people to the area – how can we respond to that?” asked Tubb. The Belhaven report backs up that data. “…the face of prostitution and commercial sex is changing with technology. Many websites allow facilitators to advertise without ever walking the streets. Law enforcement identified the Internet as the main source for locating victims,” says the study.
Tubbs also learned that the profile of the “john” or customer is not what many people have in mind. “It’s not just what you might think of as a ‘sleazy hotel,’ it can happen at nice hotels and conference centers. White collar professionals feed money into the industry,” she said. Training law enforcement and supporting prosecution for the customers can help as well as offering treatment for men with pornography and sex addictions.
The workshop was just the start of raising awareness. “We have identified people interested in this ministry,” said Tubb. The next step is to process what they heard and have a follow-up meeting. “Anyone who wants to partner in this is welcome,” she said. Those interested can contact Christ United Methodist Church at 601.956.6974
Read the Belhaven Rapid Assessment online, http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MS-Rapid-Assessment-22715.pdf.
(Editor’s note: April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. Mississippi Catholic will feature abuse awareness and prevention stories in each issue this month.)