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Attorney General’s Office, Children’s Justice Centers Launch New SHINE Child Abuse Support Initiative


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2020
 
 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, CHILDREN’S JUSTICE CENTERS LAUNCH NEW SHINE CHILD ABUSE SUPPORT INITIATIVE
SHINE Campaign Lead By Survivors Rabbi Avremi Zippel, Former Senator Aaron Osmond and Musician Deondra Brown
 

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Children’s Justice Center Program (CJC) have launched a public awareness campaign dedicated to changing the conversation around child abuse and empowering survivors.

Listen to the press conference below:

Utah is the first state to roll out a SHINE campaign of this size with a digital marketing presence and an original PSA. Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes was joined by Utah natives and SHINE ambassadors Rabbi Avremi Zippel (Chabad Lubavitch of Utah), Aaron Osmond (former state senator) and Deondra Brown (pianist of The 5 Browns). Additionally, billboards have been placed throughout the state promoting SHINE and the important work of local CJCs.
 
The National Children’s Alliance, national membership organization for CJCs, created SHINE as an initiative to end the stigma associated with child abuse and encourage community members to support survivors.
 
Zippel said that being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse is a lonely and isolating experience. “The SHINE Campaign provides survivors of child abuse with reminders that are so necessary — that they are in no way alone and can and will go on to lead the fullest and most meaningful lives imaginable. We are fortunate to have organizations like Utah’s CJCs that are a pillar of support to young people in our community. I am proud to be part of this endeavor to stand with, inspire, and support fellow survivors.”
 
The campaign’s ambassadors acknowledge that each survivor’s path is different and equally valid. For some, their healing is private and personal. For others, action is a powerful tool.
 
Osmond said as a legislator, he felt compelled to strengthen state laws to protect the rights of victims. “As a victim of abuse, I also realized my own story needed to be told in that public setting to help remove the stigma of talking about abuse. It was hard to open up about such a personal impact. But in sharing my story, I have helped to engage my legislative colleagues, neighbors, and friends in discussing the problem and creating awareness in how we can all prevent child abuse”. 
 
During the current pandemic, Attorney General Reyes stated that Utah’s child abuse reports have dropped by about 40%, but not because child abuse has declined. Stay-at-home restrictions have made it difficult for the most common mandatory reporters — teachers, coaches and other trusted adults — to observe concerning behaviors, or for children to safely disclose to them. As statewide restrictions inch closer to a new norm, professionals who work with child abuse victims hope children will begin to feel comfortable enough to disclose. But public awareness is also an important factor moving forward.
 
The SHINE campaign celebrates the resiliency of survivors and the critical role of CJCs in helping children find hope, support and healing. Every year Utah’s 25 CJCs handle more than 7,200 cases, providing advocacy, medical and mental health services, and other support to children throughout the justice process.
 
Brown is optimistic about the road ahead for this next generation of children. “If I had known as a child that CJCs were out there, I would have come forward much sooner and disclosed about the abuse I experienced. I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed and would be all alone. But the tides are shifting. People are discussing this topic and the message of SHINE is an opportunity to take that a step further — to celebrate the strength and determination of survivors and challenge us all to stand by them. If children who are experiencing abuse now see there are others out there who understand and will believe them, they will feel more empowered to come forward.”
 
To download press materials on the Utah SHINE Campaign, please click here.


Visit http://utahcjc.org/shine for more information.
 

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About SHINE
SHINE is a national campaign to transform the conversation about child abuse. For too many, childhood is where the trauma starts. It’s time for us to be a light that survivors can turn to. 

About Utah Children’s Justice Centers
When abuse is suspected, the child is brought to a Children’s Justice Center–a safe, child-focused facility– to talk to a trained interviewer. A team of professionals make decisions together about how to handle the case and help the child. Children and families are connected with services and supported throughout the process. 

Watch the press conference on the launch of the SHINE campaign below:

Pledge to Prevent Child Abuse

April 7, 2020

Regardless of the circumstances of their birth, every child deserves to be loved, cared for, and kept safe. Tragically, many children each year fall victim to abuse and neglect, robbing them of the innocence of childhood and exposing them to pervasive, detrimental effects that can have a lifelong impact on a child’s physical, psychological, and behavioral health and well-being.

This month, we recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month. As schools close and families and communities adjust to a changing environment as a result of COVID-19, stressors are more prevalent as unemployment rates rise and children are urged to remain at home. We implore families to practice kindness, patience, and understanding. Raising a child is of paramount importance and, at times, can be the most challenging. We celebrate the courage it takes to be a parent or caregiver and commend the effort that that title brings.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office prioritizes protecting children from all forms of abuse. We are proud to support and work alongside our community partners to protect children and provide resources to families across Utah. The Utah Children’s Justice Center (CJC) Program, administered by the Attorney General’s Office, provides child-focused support and safe environments in which representatives from law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical services, and victim advocacy work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse cases. For more information, visit the CJC website.

This month, take the time to familiarize yourself with the signs of child neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, including sudden changes in behavior and untreated physical or medical issues. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services outlines the definitions, signs, and symptoms of child abuse and neglect here. Educate yourself and your family on these coronavirus resources and tips for parents, children, and others as we all work together to endure the struggles that the pandemic brings to our communities. If you suspect child abuse call 1-855-323-3237.

For more information, visit the following resources:

ICAC Task Force Combats Proliferation of Child Sex Abuse Images

October 1, 2019

The proliferation of images and videos featuring the sexual abuse and torture of children, often referred to as child pornography, has increased exponentially over the years. Last year, tech companies reported an astounding 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused.

By Rich Harris | New York Times | Source: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Utah is not immune to the rapid expansion of this epidemic. The Utah Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in inundated with combatting child sexual abuse in the State of Utah. Recently, the New York Times featured the ICAC Task Force in an article reporting on the increasing amount of reported child sexual abuse imagery in an increasingly virtual age.  

It was a sunny afternoon in July, and an unmarked police van in Salt Lake City was parked outside a pink stucco house. Garden gnomes and a heart-shaped “Welcome Friends” sign decorated the front yard.

At the back of the van, a man who lived in the house was seated in a cramped interrogation area, while officers cataloged hard drives and sifted through web histories from his computers.

The man had shared sexually explicit videos online, the police said, including one of a 10-year-old boy being “orally sodomized” by a man, and another of a man forcing two young boys to engage in anal intercourse.

“The sad thing is that’s pretty tame compared to what we’ve seen,” said Chief Jessica Farnsworth, an official with the Utah Attorney General’s Office who led a raid of the house. The victims have not been identified or rescued.

The year was barely half over, and Chief Farnsworth’s team had already conducted about 150 such raids across Utah. The specially trained group, one of 61 nationwide, coordinates state and regional responses to internet crimes against children.

The Utah group expects to arrest nearly twice as many people this year as last year for crimes related to child sexual abuse material, but federal funding has not kept pace with the surge. Funding for the 61 task forces from 2010 to 2018 remained relatively flat, federal data shows, while the number of leads referred to them increased by more than 400 percent.

Much of the federal money goes toward training new staff members because the cases take a heavy emotional and psychological toll on investigators, resulting in constant turnover.

The Internet is Overrun with Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?

By Michael H. Keller and Gabriel J.X. Dance

To read the rest of the article go here.  

Investigators in Salt Lake City searching a home for abuse content. Confiscated electronic material in a mobile forensics lab. Jessica Farnsworth, an official with the Utah attorney general’s office who oversaw the operation. | Kholood Eid for The New York Times


The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children. The Utah Attorney General (UAG) ICAC Task Force was created in 2000 and is now one of 61 ICAC task forces in the country. They focus on crimes related to sexual exploitation of a minor – whether possessing, distributing, or manufacturing child pornography, enticing minors over the internet, or exchanging material deemed harmful to minors. The UAG ICAC Task Force has 32 local, state, and federal police agencies involved in the task force.

You can learn more about ICAC and how to keep your family safe, check out the ICAC Task Force here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/justice/internet-crimes-against-children-icac-task-force.

Fighting Child Pornography: Answering Your Questions

May 2, 2019

Child pornography is a serious and growing problem in our state, and the Utah Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force is fighting it every day. ABC4 reporter Brittany Johnson got a first-hand look at this problem recently, by riding along with the ICAC Task Force. She went with our officers to the frontline of this battle to capture and share the tragic reality of child pornography – and how ICAC fights against it – on ABC4’s 10 PM newscasts, April 25 and 26, 2019.

Based on the considerable feedback, the Utah Attorney General’s office is posting answers to the most frequently asked questions about the child pornography problem in our state. These questions are pouring into both the AG’s office and to ABC4 via email, social media, and telephone this week. There are thousands of concerned parents and Utah citizens who are troubled by child pornography and who want to protect their children and help fight against the problem. ICAC Commander Jessica Farnsworth answers the questions below.

Are there warning signs?  How can we can recognize those who view and/or trade, sell and share child pornography?

What are the various behaviors that act as ‘gateways’, which could lead a person to child pornography?

Are there any signals or warning signs that indicate a child is being sexually abused?

What can we do to protect our kids?

What do parents need to know about posting photos of their children on social media?

What does the average citizen need to know about child pornography?

What is the best way to get involved in stopping child pornography?

How do we stop the demand for child pornography?

Wheels of Justice Rides to Make a Difference

March 18, 2019

In an article published in the Utah Bar Journal, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, and Attorney Gregory N. Hoole joined together to bring awareness of child abuse and Wheels of Justice, a local cycling club dedicated to ending all forms of child abuse.

Wheels of Justice, a nonprofit corporation, raises money to support four organizations: Prevent Child Abuse Utah (PCAU), Friends of the Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center (Friends of the CJC), Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) and the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC).

Additionally, Wheels of Justice sponsors a bicycle ride every September that ascends all five of Salt Lake City’s riding canyons in one day. This daunting course shows children who have been abused that they, too, can overcome any challenge.

For more information and to find out how you can join Wheels of Justic, visit their website at www.teamwheelsofjustice.org.

Reporting Clergy Abuse

The Utah Attorney General’s Office works tirelessly to combat clergy abuse, and child abuse of any kind, through its Child Protection Division, the statewide network of Children’s Justice Centers, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, robust investigations, prosecution and victim advocacy. We do this is partnership with Child Protective Services, local law enforcement, and other agencies.

In the interest of protecting the innocent and bringing criminals to justice, we do not discuss ongoing investigations.

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused by a clergy member, or anyone else, please report this to the 24/7 Child Abuse Hotline at 855-323-3237 or call your local sheriff or police department. You may also contact our office during business hours at 801-281-1200.

Partners in Protecting Children: Utah CJCs & the LDS Church

Seeking justice on behalf of physically or sexually abused children and helping those children heal is the mission of the Utah Children’s Justice Centers Program. Protecting children is also a core mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Due to the intersection of vision, the partnership between the two organizations is a natural fit and a big reason why the LDS Church continues to support the CJC Program.

The CJC Program received $50,000 from the LDS Church this year, making it the fourth consecutive year the Church has given to the organization. Each year, the CJCs determine where the gift can have the greatest impact. The contribution this year will go to outlying and rural sites for the following:

  • To update interview recording equipment, a critical component of the CJC process;
  • Support renovations in several centers; and 
  • Help establish a victim advocate at the San Juan facility.

For more coverage on the LDS Church grant to Utah CJCs check out the links, below.

Deseret News: LDS women leaders present donation to prevent child abuse in Utah, Bolivia

KSL.com: LDS Church donates $75K to combat child abuse in Utah and Bolivia

Fox 13: LDS Church makes donation to Children’s Justice Center to aid abuse victims

KUER: Top Female Mormon Leaders Say Child Abuse Is Major Priority

KUTV: LDS Church donates to child abuse prevention charities at home and abroad

Mormon Newsroom: Church Donates to Child Abuse Prevention Organizations

LDS Living: LDS Female Church Leaders Donate $75,000 to Fight Child Abuse

The Utah Children’s Justice Program oversees 23 independently-run CJC sites that serve 28 counties throughout the state. Sites are designed with the comfort of the child in mind to provide a safe, friendly atmosphere for forensic interviews, medical examinations, and follow-up support services. For more information please contact the CJC closest to you

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