Five Years to Serve, Justice Hardly Served

A Wisconsin man and his wife were sentenced to five years each for imprisoning their teenage daughter in their basement for six years. Apparently the father testified during trial that he tried to get his daughter to become a ward of the state because he could not care for her. The couple’s justification for imprisoning their daughter was that the family needed to be protected since she suffered from mental health issues. It sounds like she was the one who needed protection.  It also is understandable that the teenage girl might have mental health issues from being imprisoned by her own parents for over half a decade.

Additionally, the girl’s older stepbrother faces charges of sexual assault against her. His trial will begin this month. The alleged acts initiated by the step brother occurred numerous times. It is unclear whether the parents were aware of their son’s actions.

While it is undoubtedly shocking to hear of the abuse and neglect this teenage girl went through, it seems even more appalling that it took so long for anyone to notice. While the girl was home-schooled and thus, probably did not get out as much, there must have been someone who knew of her existence and could inquire as to her whereabouts for the past six years. The 15 year old girl was seen by a passerby in her pajamas looking overly malnourished (68 pounds) leading to an investigation and the charges being brought in 2012. It is two years later and the parents are just now facing the consequences of their actions.

This young girl was imprisoned for five years and prevented from enjoying aspects of life that are inherent in our day to day routines. She was deprived food multiple times, but even when her parents provided food, she had to eat of the floor. She had to use the restroom in boxes and bathe in a utility sink. Not only did this experience toll on the teenage girl mentally, but she was also physically abused. The teenage girl also stated that she was forced to eat her own excrement multiple times.

The exchange of those six years of her life, and arguably more time considering she will most likely continue to struggle with the awful memories of her experience, with the five years both parents will serve does not seem just. This teenage girl needs to know that her parent’s actions were cruel and deserving of more than five years. It is clear that her parents have already set a horrid example of how to treat others and your children. Could this court not have provided a better example by sentencing these parents to at least six years, equaling the minimal amount of time they stole from their daughter? It seems the court could find plenty of justification for a sentence of way more than five years.

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Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Japan’s Child Kidnapping Problem, The Daily Beast

Japan has a child-kidnapping problem. It’s not strangers snatching the kids on the playground or at the bus-stop; the problem is that when a Japanese national divorces a foreigner overseas, he or she can abduct their children, bring them back to Japan and the law ensures that the parent left behind has no rights to see the children or take them back home. The U.S. State Department reports that there have been over a hundred such kidnappings since 1994—according to a source, the number is closer to 400. Within Japan itself, divorce often means that one parent may have little or no access to the child. Japan’s inability to deal with child abduction partly stems from archaic family law in Japan that does not recognize joint custody. It’s a winner take all system. The law makes it almost impossible for the other parent to even meet the child, if the Japanese partner objects.

DSM-5 Changes to Autism, ADHD Definitions Could Impact Millions of Children, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A new edition of the psychiatric “bible” will be released May 17, arriving on a wave of controversy that may have a profound influence on children’s mental health care in the United States, particularly around the diagnosis and treatment of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) is the first major update of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) clinical guidebook in almost 20 years. The DSM-5 expands and alters the diagnosis criteria for several disorders, and in some cases, introduces definitions of “new” psychiatric disorders.

The influence the DSM-5 has on children’s services could be extensive, because its diagnostic criteria are the nation’s most commonly used for identifying and treating mental disorders. Changes in diagnostic criteria, and especially mental disorder definitions, may alter the eligibility for some children to receive specialized education in school or limit certain treatments pediatricians may provide for younger patients.

Mental Disorders Affect 1 in 5 U.S. Children Each Year, New Scientist

As many as one in five children aged 3 to 17 years old experiences a mental health disorder each year, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the most comprehensive review of US children’s mental health yet, the CDC analysed data from 11 ongoing federal epidemiological surveys. Some of these are based on doctors’ diagnoses and prescriptions; others rely on telephone interviews with parents.

By analysing data from 2005 to 2011, the CDC calculated that 13 to 20 per cent of children in the US have some type of mental health disorder annually. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) accounted for the highest number of diagnoses, with 6.8 per cent of children diagnosed with it each year. This was followed by behavioural problems, anxiety and depression.

Prenatal Exposure to Traffic is Associated with Respiratory Infection in Young Children, Science Daily

Living near a major roadway during the prenatal period is associated with an increased risk of respiratory infection developing in children by the age of 3, according to a new study from researchers in Boston.

After Ohio Kidnapping Victims’ Escape, Spotlight Grows on Human Trafficking

The escape of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry – the three women allegedly held captive by Ariel Castro for over ten years in Cleveland, Ohio – has rekindled national interest in the scope and pervasiveness of both kidnapping and human trafficking. The women, who were in their mid-teens and early twenties when kidnapped, were reportedly raped and subject to multiple miscarriages.

Castro allegedly forced Knight, DeJesus, and Berry into a decade of sexual horrors before Berry escaped on Monday, May 6, 2013. According to CNN, Knight became pregnant at least five times while forcefully confined in Castro’s home. While pregnant, Knight was reportedly starved for weeks at a time and repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Berry bore Castro’s child in 2007.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year, with approximately 58,000 children being kidnapped for primarily sexual motives. Forcing kidnapped children into sexual relationships draws a dangerous parallel to and serves as a scarring iteration of the broader issue of human trafficking. This close relationship has many individuals and world leaders crying out for stricter governmental reforms in order to curtail the rapid growth of human trafficking.

Between 2008 and 2010, federally funded task forces opened 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery . . . [involving] the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that sex trafficking accounts for approximately 8 in 10 incidents of human trafficking, while labor trafficking represents 1 in 10 incidents.

In 2000, an estimated 244,000 American children and youth were at risk of sexual exploitation. The number has since grown with 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys becoming sexually victimized before they reach the age of 18.

At the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012, President Obama announced a number of new national commitments to combat human trafficking. These strategies include:

  1. Preventing human trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;
  2. Prosecuting human traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;
  3. Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and
  4. Partnering with civil society, state and local governments, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.

Since the Clinton Global Initiative, the Obama Administration has implemented a number of programs to help combat the growing number of human trafficking victims. In February 2013, President Obama signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was passed by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 aims at strengthening protections for vulnerable children and domestic workers and helps foster effective partnerships to bring services to human trafficking survivors and to prosecute traffickers.

Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security plans to amend the “T” nonimmigrant visa regulations that allow human trafficking victims to remain in the United States and aid in the prosecution of their traffickers.

Moreover, the Obama Administration has also partnered with leading technology companies to develop applications for trafficking victims, online and on their phones, to help link them with services in their communities. Similarly, the Department of State has partnered with a non-profit organization to increase the availability of pro bono legal services for human trafficking victims.

In light of these national efforts and international endeavors, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority voted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, to support the transportation sector’s role in dismantling human trafficking by signing a pledge supported by “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking.” The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s decision comes just days after Knight, DeJesus, and Berry regained their freedom.

Through the pledge, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will raise awareness of human trafficking, train workers on how to spot potential traffickers and human trafficking victims, and share data that can be used to investigate and uncover human trafficking schemes.

While the steps that have been taken by the Obama Administration and by both national and state governmental agencies hint at the type of governmental and legal reform needed to battle the incidence of human trafficking, the rising frequency of human trafficking calls for further action to combat the evils of this form of modern-day slavery.