FL Man Restrained Child, Whipped Her

.jpg photo of man accused of Child Abuse
Paul McKeehan

Man charged with Aggravated Child Abuse

UMATILLA, FL  –  A man has been arrested after he admitted to placing a 10-year-old girl in adult entertainment straps and beating her with a wooden spatula as punishment.

According to an arrest affidavit, Christopher Paul McKeehan was upset Thursday that the child had left some pills out that a 2-year-old got into as well as lying about her report card.

A witness in the home said McKeehan couldn’t find his belt he normally spanked the child with and couldn’t wait, so he grabbed the 12-inch long, two-inch wide spatula to beat the child.

McKeehan admitted to Lake County sheriff’s deputies, who had responded to the home on reports of child abuse, that the adult entertainment straps were already tied to the bed.  He added he took the child into the bedroom, made her lie down, used the straps to bind her wrists, took her pants down and beat her.

The witness told deputies that when she heard screaming, she went into the room and yelled for McKeehan to stop.  But instead the 175-pound McKeehan climbed onto the child’s back and continued to spank her with the spatula.

The affidavit adds the child was eventually able to get one hand free. But about 75 percent of the child’s buttocks was covered with a bright red and purple bruise.

McKeehan was charged with aggravated child abuse and remained in the Lake County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.

According to the affidavit, McKeehan admitted he went too far and called law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families on himself. 

Parents Learn Myths And Realities Of Child Abuse

.jpg photo of New Jersey Child Abuse Advocates
Pam Celenza of NJ Child Abuse Prevention, and Maria Conti

Wildwood school hosts Child Abuse
Prevention workshop

WILDWOOD, NJ  –  Parents at the Glenwood Avenue School learned about the myths and realities of child abuse at a Jan. 12 parent involvement meeting.

Pam Celenza, a coordinator with the NJ Child Abuse Prevention Program, sponsored by the NJ Department of Children and Families, introduced the program to parents, telling them the NJCAP slogan is, “Helping Children to be Safe, Strong, and Free.”

Celenza said NJCAP, through the International Center for Assault Prevention, is working in 13 states and 13 countries.  The Atlantic/Cape May Counties CAP Project is hosted by AlantiCare Behavioral Health.

Celenza said NJCAP is trying to reach students, teachers, and parents, to educate them on child abuse prevention.  Celenza said the program is presented to pre-K and kindergarten students.  The workshop is given over three days, 45 minutes per day, for the younger students, and the kindergarten program is over two days.

With the aid of Spanish language translator Maria Conti, Celenza told parents the program began over 30 years ago, when a student was sexually assaulted on the way to school.  Parents in the victim’s school wanted to develop a program to educate students on assault prevention.

“They wanted to look at the myths and realities of an assault on a woman as compared to a child,” Celenza said.

One of those myths, Celenza said, was that children were in danger mostly from strangers who preyed on children they didn’t know.

“Typically we educate children they can be harmed by strangers, whereas 85 to 90 percent of the time it is someone they know,” Celenza said.

Celenza said NJCAP identifies four common types of child abuse. One is neglect, which is simply not providing enough of the necessities – food, clothing, and shelter.  She said there is a difference between poverty and neglect, which she said was purposely withholding basic necessities from children.

She said the next is emotional abuse, which is done with words, including withholding praise and attention.  Physical abuse means injuring or harming the child.  Celenza said some parents use corporal punishment, but evaluators look at the frequency and severity of the physical punishment.

“Adults have the right to discipline, but they can do it by withholding privileges rather than being physical,” she said.

Celenza told parents there are different types of sexual assault. Rape, she said, is defined as penetration.  Incest involves someone living in the home, and can be an adult, an adolescent, or even a child assaulting another child.  She said the assault can be by someone of the opposite or same gender.

Other forms of sexual assault include exhibitionism, which is someone showing their naked body without the victim’s permission, or voyeurism, which is looking at the naked body of the victim for sexual gratification.

Celenza said it is a sexual assault to take pornographic pictures of a child or force a child to view pornography.  Sexual assault also includes sexual exploitation, which involves selling the use of the child’s body.

Celenza said there are generally two means of addressing sexual assault and child abuse: prosecution and education.  Prosecution, she said, does not stop the attack, and there is a low conviction rate.

“In New Jersey we have Megan’s Law, which requires sexual offenders to register, but that won’t tell us where the unregistered offenders are,” Celenza said.

Celenza said sometimes the offender is not registered because the victim child has not told his or her story.

“Because 85 to 90 prevent of the time they are harmed by someone they know, it keeps them from telling anyone,” she said.

Celenza said the child will worry about what will happen to the offender, who is someone the child loves, and who they don’t want to see get in trouble.  She said the child is often convinced no one will believe them if they tell.

Celenza said teaching children to say “No” is one of the best ways to prevent child abuse.

“Studies have shown that if a child had said no, the offender would have moved on to another victim,” she said.

She said the NJCAP program aims at giving children the skills and strategies they need to prevent an assault, because prosecution is not a prevention tool.  In addition, teaching a child to simply avoid behaviors or visiting a location may not help.  If the child breaks a rule, and is assaulted, the child will feel it is their fault.

“How do we reduce their vulnerability to being victimized?” Celenza said.

In the NJCAP workshops, Celenza said, they teach children to be self-assertive, they teach about peer support, and about telling a trusted adult.

First, we want to empower children to say ‘no’ or ‘stop,’” she said.

She said while children must listen to adults, there are times when a child’s right to say no exceeds adult authority, such as when someone wants them to view pornography or watch an R-rated movie.  She said children should be encouraged to ask ‘Why?’ and adults should be prepared to give an appropriate response – not simply, “Because I said so.”

She said children need to have a trusted adult outside the home, which might be a teacher.  However, if there is someone the child trusts, it might be difficult for them to express what happened.  In these cases, the child will normally demonstrate through his or her behavior that something is wrong.  She said if a child starts sucking their thumb or wetting the bed, when they did not do this before, it could be a sign of a problem.  A child becoming overly affectionate could be a sign of a learned behavior.  Celenza said if parents notice new behaviors they should ask the child about it and see if their story fits.

“There can be emotional or physical indicators…ask the who, what, where, when and how,” Celenza said.

According to Celenza, children will lie to get out of trouble, but they cannot lie about something they have no knowledge of or experience with.  She said if a child talks about someone touching them inappropriately, it must be something the child experienced. She said parents should calmly question the child about the incident because it’s not easy for the child to talk about.

At the same time, she said, don’t project or make assumptions about what the child is saying.

“If the child says they don’t like how their grandmother touches them, ask how she touches them.  They might say, ‘She rubs my head and squeezes my cheeks,’” Celenza said.

Celenza said it is important to teach children the appropriate anatomical terms.  She said there was a case of a girl telling a teacher someone was touching her “pocketbook.”  The teacher told her not to bring it to school.  Later, when the school psychologist asked the girl where her pocketbook was, the girl indicated her vagina.

“A lot of time prosecuting these cases is not successful because the child does not know the language,” Celenza said.

Celenza said anyone suspecting child abuse should call 1-877-NJABUSE.

AZ Little Girl Knows Only Abuse

.jpg photo of woman accused of scalding Child
Samantha Osteraas

2 Pima County jail inmates assault mom facing Child Abuse charges

Tucson, AZ  –  A mother facing child abuse charges after her daughter was severely burned in a bathtub was attacked by two Pima County jail inmates, an official said.

Tucson mom accused of deliberately scalding daughter, 5

Samantha Osteraas, who initially declined protective custody, had her life threatened, and she was punched and her hair pulled, said Lt. Elsa Navarro of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday.

Detectives: Tucson mom waited 6 hours to seek help for burned daughter

The incident occurred Jan. 11 in the living area of a housing unit, said Navarro, who oversees the jail’s special management housing.

Tucson burn victim, age 5, had long history of neglect

Since then, Osteraas was placed in protective custody.  She received medical treatment, but her injuries were not serious, Navarro said.

Osteraas was booked into jail Jan. 5 on two counts of child abuse after her 5-year-old daughter suffered third-degree burns to 80 percent of her body during a Dec. 29 incident, according to Pima County Superior Court documents.

“She was assaulted by a couple of inmates who saw the news, and told her it was retaliation because she hurt her child,” Navarro said.

Osteraas reported the assault after it occurred, and detectives conducted an investigation.

The inmates involved were disciplined internally, each receiving days of solitary confinement to their quarters, said Navarro.

TX Volleyball Coach Found Guilty

.jpg photo of Coach found guilty of Child Sex Abuse
Damian Merrick

Former volleyball coach found guilty of
Child Sexual Assault

Dallas, TX  –  A former Grapevine volleyball coach has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl and drug offenses.

Volleyball Club Owner Arrested Again

Damian Merrick was facing two charges of child sexual assault after he was accused of raping two girls, but he was only found guilty on one count.  He was also found guilty providing marijuana to the teen girls.

Jurors spent most of the day on Friday deliberating before reaching a guilty verdict.

Prosecutors argued that Merrick used alcohol and drugs to lure the teens during a team trip to Colorado.

Defense attorneys argued before the jury that Merrick had lost everything but his freedom.  During closing arguments, the defense told the jury the state had left too much reasonable doubt.  They pointed to inconsistent stories by two girls who testified Merrick sexually assaulted them when they were 16 and played on his volleyball team.

The jury deliberated for nearly 7 hours before reaching their verdict.

During closing arguments, attorneys from both sides made their points with the jury.

A Grapevine police detective testified Merrick had a sexual relationship with one of those girls for three months and raped a second girl in the bathroom at her friend’s house.

Merrick’s daughter tried to defend him.  She spoke on his behalf and said he never gave her drugs or alcohol, but she broke down crying after prosecutors poked holes in her testimony.

The judge began testimony of the punishment phase of the trial Friday afternoon.

Younger Children And More Severe Abuse

.jpg photo of Child Advocacy Center
The Western Slope Center for Children

Reports show varying stats on Mesa County
Child Abuse

MESA COUNTY, CO  –  Data shows child abuse is on the decline in Mesa County for some organizations, while others report an increasing number of cases.

The Western Slope Center for Children saw an eight percent decrease in child abuse cases in 2016, compared to 2015.  While there is no specific reason for the decline, officials said there were fewer cases at the beginning of 2016 than usual.

“On average, we usually see at least 30 or more children a month,” said Melissa Lytle with The Western Slope Center for Children.  “I think reports were still being made.  I still think the right kiddos were coming to our center.”

In 2016, the center said it provided services for 391 kids.

“Child abuse is here and we need to have a collaborative community response to it,” Lytle said.

Of those nearly 400 children, roughly 80 percent of them were victims of sexual assault.  However, the center’s data show in 2016, there were more types of abuse reported than in years past.

“We did have a couple of human trafficking cases,” Lytle said.  “And we saw unfortunately, some witnesses to some homicides that occurred last year.”

The Western Slope Center for Children said it did see an increase in the number of sexual assault exams.  Between children and adults, 95 exams were given in 2016.  That compares to 71 exams in 2015.

While The Western Slope Center for Children saw a decrease in child abuse cases, CASA reported an increase.

CASA provides a voice for abused and neglected children in the courtroom.

“We are seeing younger kids and a lot more severe abuse that has been happening than in years past,” said Janet Rowland, spokesperson for CASA“It’s very severe.  The injuries are worse.”

CASA said it provided services for 275 kids in 2016.

Child advocates encourage community members to understand the signs of abuse.  If a child begins to behave differently than he or she normally does, that may be a warning sign.

Reporting child abuse can make the difference for a young life, according to child advocates.

“Sometimes people are apprehensive to call the hotline in fear that it is not abuse or they aren’t seeing the whole story,” Rowland said.

“But that’s not for them to decide.  It’s up to law enforcement and the Department of Human Services.”

The Mesa County Department of Human Services said it saw a slight decrease in both child abuse cases and sexual assault cases at the end of 2016.

Still, advocates urge the public to call authorities if any type of abuse is suspected.

“We rely on the eyes and ears of our community to report child abuse and neglect to us, anytime that they suspect it,” said Kari Daggett, the Director of Child Welfare at DHS.

The local hotline can be reached at 970-242-1211.  Daggett said caller remain completely anonymous, and any reports will be investigated.

CASA is hosting a ‘Fostering Hope’ event for the community on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.mIt will take place at the Grand Junction City Hall auditoriumIt is a partnership event with multiple organizations to showcase a variety of ways community members can help kids who have been abused.

To reserve a spot or get more information about the event, visit www.FosteringHope.info.