KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE
ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Miami – February 20, 2020
The goal of the collaborative effort by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force, the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and Miami-Dade, Miami Beach and City of Miami Police Departments as well as other local law enforcement agencies, the local Super Bowl Host Committee and the Women’s Fund Miami-Dade,was to disrupt and end potential human trafficking activities before and during the Super Bowl while also raising awareness about human trafficking, dispelling its myths and informing the public on how to report it.
“Trafficking survivors and other experts had previously warned us that our community would attract human traffickers that look to take advantage of the economic impact and influx of visitors produced by the Super Bowl itself,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
“That is why we joined forces with local, state and federal agencies and community organizations to tackle this threat successfully as one team”. As a result of our collaborative law enforcement efforts, we were able to recover 20 victims of Human Trafficking:
• Four victims identified themselves as residents of Miami-Dade or Broward Counties.
• Sixteen victims were from other states and four foreign countries. Of the five human trafficking charges filed against individuals, three were filed as federal
crimes and two were filed as violations of Florida law.
Additionally, eight buyers, or “Johns”, were arrested, and 34 accomplices and/or possible traffickers were also arrested on human trafficking-related charges.
We engaged in a robust and innovative awareness campaign which involved critical stakeholders from local and national community organizations, including private agencies, to help raise awareness and bring resources to our community that would assist us in the fight against human trafficking.
This effort included a marketing campaign placing billboards and advertisements at key locations around Miami-Dade County to inform the public on what human trafficking looks like and what to do if they see something they suspect is human trafficking.
We helped provide training and information to:
• Super Bowl volunteers on how to recognize human trafficking and contact the
• the hospitality industry and their personnel
• physicians and hospitals on how to recognize the trafficking red flags visible in their practice or emergency rooms
• non-profit organizations that provide community outreach
• Uber and Lyft to train their drivers to recognize signs of trafficking activity
• displayed informative videos at local airports for viewing by incoming flyers
• churches and congregations
• and students from schools and universities as.
“Investments in creating greater community awareness are not just for the Super Bowl but can be important assets for the future,” added State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “This united effort has not only led to arrests and recoveries, but has also provided us with information and leads that help us continue to successfully stop human trafficking in our community.”
SCRANTON -The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that William Hayes, age 72, of Wilmington, Delaware, was sentenced on February 19, 2020, by U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani to 210 months’ imprisonment for transportation of minors to engage in criminal sexual activity.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Hayes repeatedly transported two minors from Pennsylvania to Florida, Tennessee and Delaware, to engage in sexual activity for an approximate 10-year period.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”
State of Iowa Office of Ombudsman
Date: February 17, 2020
Re: Investigation into the Death of Natalie Finn
DES MOINES – Another tragedy like the death of teenager Natalie Finn could happen unless Iowa’s child-protection workers are given the resources and support they need, the State Ombudsman announced today.
That is one of the conclusions in a 160-page report released today by Ombudsman Kristie Hirschman. The report details her office’s investigation into how the Department of Human Services (DHS) handled child-abuse reports about Natalie Finn and her siblings. The 16-yearold girl was emaciated when emergency responders were called to her adoptive family’s West Des Moines home in October 2016. She died a few hours later at a local hospital.
The Ombudsman found that 14 child abuse reports had been made to DHS on behalf of the Finn children. The first three were made between 2005 and 2009. DHS’s records for those three reports were scant or non-existent, due to the agency’s policies for maintaining childabuse records. The lack of any meaningful records prevented the Ombudsman from reaching conclusions on the appropriateness of DHS’s responses to those three abuse reports. Hirschman’s report criticizes those record-retention policies, stating that they hinder DHS
workers’ ability to identify patterns of abuse.
Much of the Ombudsman’s report focuses on DHS’s responses to five child abuse reports made from November 2015 to May 2016. Of those five abuse reports, the first four were rejected by DHS intake staff – meaning those reports were not assigned to field staff for investigation. The Ombudsman concluded that three of those abuse reports should have been accepted for investigation. Included were two abuse reports, made six months apart, from school officials who described Natalie as “starving” and “very thin.” Intake staff did not document those descriptions and both abuse reports were rejected.
In reviewing policies in other states, the Ombudsman found that intake workers in Tennessee are required to read their written narrative back to anyone who makes a child abuse report by telephone. Had such a policy been in effect at DHS’s child abuse intake unit in 2015-2016, Hirschman’s report says, “it may have allowed reporters in the Finn case to point out significant errors and omissions, and may have resulted in several intakes being accepted instead of being rejected.”
The common concern among the five people who made child-abuse reports from November 2015 to May 2016 was that Natalie was not getting enough food at home. But no pattern was noticed until the fifth report, when a DHS worker took a step others did not and reviewed the four prior abuse reports about the Finn family. DHS intake workers are trained to check relevant histories for all abuse reportsThe May 31, 2016, abuse report was also the only one of the five that was accepted for investigation. The Ombudsman found a number of serious missteps with how that investigation was handled by field staff: key witnesses were never identified or interviewed; the case was plagued by procedural irregularities; and the case was allowed to languish for extensive periods of time.
According to the Ombudsman’s report, child-abuse call volumes and accepted intakes have increased significantly since Natalie’s death. This has resulted in a 36 percent increase to field workers’ average caseloads from 2016 to 2018. Fortunately, additional funding for field staff was approved in 2019.
The Ombudsman found that the increased call volume is also straining DHS’s centralized child abuse intake unit, where the number of intake workers has not increased since 2011.
“Although DHS received funding for the current fiscal year to hire additional field staff, I believe employees remain overworked, especially those in the intake unit,” Hirschman said in the report. “I am seriously concerned that the recent budget increase is insufficient, especially in light of the increasing numbers of abuse reports and investigations since Natalie’s death.” Hirschman made 14 recommendations to DHS. Included are recommendations that the agency:
• Conduct a systemic review of the agency’s child abuse intake unit operations in light of the Ombudsman’s findings.
• Modify its administrative rules to increase the retention period for child abuse intakes and assessments.
• Develop a policy for all intakes received by phone requiring intake workers to read their written narrative of the reporter’s statements back to the caller before the conclusion of the call.
• Provide training and written guidance on legal tools available to field workers when faced with resistance from parents.
• Provide training and resources for intake and field staff impacted by secondary trauma, decision fatigue, and other job-related stress.
Hirschman also asks the Iowa Legislature to re-evaluate its expectations for the Child Fatality Review Committee and other oversight bodies responsible for reviewing child deaths. The Ombudsman found that the Committee has never convened since it was established in 2000 following the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis.
According to the report, DHS implemented some systemic changes during the Ombudsman’s investigation. In response to the report, DHS officials accepted 11 of the Ombudsman’s 14 recommendations. “This was a tragic case,” DHS Director Kelly Garcia wrote. “The Finn children should never have had to endure the treatment they received.”
“We will learn from this and improve the safety net DHS provides to Iowa’s children,” she added. “Some of the work to improve the Department’s response began immediately, but a large part of the Department’s ongoing efforts will focus on finding better ways to support our team so they can better support the families we serve.”
The Ombudsman will continue to monitor and pursue DHS’s implementation of her 14
recommendations. The Ombudsman’s full report can be viewed at
By Mechelle Cichy
Damn it, John, why can't you be more like your brother? Jim always makes the honor roll, he works hard on the football team, and he does his chores around here without being told to. His room is neat and organized and he's happy to offer to help when something needs to be done. Now, here you are with another D on your report card, your room looks like a hurricane came through and I had to beg you to help me bring the groceries in. What is wrong with you?
Hey, dummy! Get on over here and help me with the laundry. I'm going to smash the TV if you keep spending all your time in front of it. I need help around here. I work hard all day long. When I get home at night I still have laundry and cooking left to do because you never lift a finger. Do you act the same way when you go to your deadbeat dad's house?
Stop hugging me, Susan! Please go play with your sisters. I don't want you on my lap. You know it makes me uncomfortable when you get so clingy. I just want to sit here quietly and enjoy my show for a little while. You have toys to play with.
I don't know about you, but those scenarios made me cringe. I could feel the pain each of those children felt hearing the words of their parents. John isn't an athletic child. He preferred to concentrate on reading and brain work until he couldn't equal his brother in his father's affections. If the only attention he would get was bad attention it would have to do. So, he stopped doing things to please his father, knowing it would never be enough anyway. He allowed his grades to fall, and he got lazy around the house. His father noticed.
The “dummy” in the second scenario was afraid to move even to offer to help her mother because in the past she always did everything wrong for her mother. So, she waited for her mother to tell her what to do and give her explicit directions. Her “deadbeat dad” never demanded these things from her. In fact, he gave her a list of chores and praised her when she did them. She was glad to help him with the laundry when it needed to be done. It's no wonder he left her mother.
Susan just wants to be loved. When her daddy is watching TV, she crawls up in his lap to try to give him a hug to show how much she loves him. But, he is cold and distant to her. He doesn't want to show her any kind of affection, and even though he doesn't get angry in his words to her, she knows she has upset him. In time, she will give up trying to win his love and find someone else who WILL love her.
These are just a few examples of emotional abuse of children. It doesn't seem so dangerous, does it? We could easily picture ourselves in the role of the abusive parent after a rough day, a rough patch in our life, or even a rough life. Frustration takes over and we stop thinking about what we are saying. Verbal diarrhea can be contagious. When we speak unkindly to others, they learn to speak unkindly to themselves.
However, the examples above are dangerous to these children. Each instance of abuse decreases their level of self-esteem even more. They begin to feel shame and guilt. A sense of hopelessness may come over them because they can't see any way of pleasing their parent now, or in the future. Nothing they do is right. They may feel confused because the parent was nice one day, then abusive the next, and over the same type of incident.
In time, these non-physical acts of violence take a physical toll on the body. At first, there are just emotional reactions. The child may withdraw and become silent, afraid to speak and being yelled at for saying the wrong thing. Or, they become anti-social, even among their peers. They don't know who to trust anymore, so they don't trust anyone.
Later, as the child matures into adulthood, the abuse begins to show effects in a physical way. They may begin to develop illnesses and health conditions including migraines, arthritis, lung diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
It is now known that ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, have a physical effect on our bodies. ACEs cause toxic stress on a person. They will affect the victim in multiple ways including their physical body.
On the ACE quiz there are questions about being often humiliated or put down, sexual violations, feeling unloved, growing up in a separated family, and family issues with substance abuse, among others. These things can all have a traumatic effect on us, even if we don't realize it.
A child may learn to live with these experiences if they happen often in the household. But, just because they are the new “normal” for the child, it doesn't make it right. They will exhibit signs that something isn't right. Teachers, coaches, and friends will notice the child hesitating to volunteer, or having a hard time excelling even in subjects they enjoy. They may feel uncomfortable saying something, but they will notice.
No household is without its own trauma of some kind. Life is filled with trauma-inducing events, including the death of a beloved family member, or the financial collapse of the household for various reasons. They will effect every member of the household. But a healthy household will work together to get through these unfortunate circumstances.
An unhealthy household is when one member is causing the trauma to another member. It might be a parent, a cousin or an older sibling who is the abuser. It might not be something that is noticed right away.
What is certain is that these actions have a lasting effect on the child who experiences them. It isn't quickly forgotten when the moment is done. The child feels the pain for hours after the initial occurrence, and for years after their childhood is gone.
As an adult, we know how these things make us feel. Even with all the life experience behind us, we don't like the feeling of emotional abuse. How much more must a sensitive child feel then? Are we considering the effect our words have on each other when we say them, especially to a vulnerable child?
It's time to think before we speak.
“Hey, Dan! How are you doing? Looking good these days! I saw your ex-wife yesterday with someone in her car.” Cathy told her friend when they met at the gas station. “I didn't recognize him but he was a big guy.” Then she added with a bit of a wink, “He wasn't bad looking either.” She had been pumping gas as he drove up to the tanks.
Dan couldn't even manage a weak smile. “Where did you see them? Where were they going?”
“Oh, I don't know! I was leaving the grocery store parking lot when she drove past and I recognized her car. I was just wondering if she had a new boyfriend.”
“How would I know if she had a new boyfriend! She doesn't tell me anything. How could she think about bringing a stranger around our children?!” Dan's face was turning red, but he tried to conceal his emotions.
“Hey,” Cathy said. “It's no big deal! You guys have been divorced for 6 months. It's about time to start new lives. It will be good for both of you.” She was finished pumping her gas. As she placed the nozzle back she added, “I gotta get going. Have a great day!”
As she drove off she couldn't see Dan seething. Nor could she have anticipated his next moves. Dan peeled out of the gas station parking lot and headed to his ex-wife's apartment. Her car wasn't there. His emotions ran wild.
“Where is she? I bet she's with him.” He muttered under his breath as he sat parked in a position he could see her pull in and know when she returned home. His head was filled with crazy thoughts.
How dare she find someone else already? We never should have divorced to begin with. If she had listened when I told her to do something she wouldn't have made me angry. I never meant to throw those scissors at her, but she wouldn't stop ignoring me when I wanted her to do something.
All I ever asked her to do was keep the house clean and have my meals ready on time. How hard can that be? Instead, she made our 6 kids do her housework while she was busy flirting with guys. She wouldn't have had time to talk to anyone else if she was doing everything I told her to do.
At least she doesn't have the kids. She's already corrupted them enough. That damn judge was an idiot allowing her to spend any time with them. Can't he see she's a horrible parent? What kind of parent makes them do her chores? There's no reason she can't do the dishes every day. Why does she have to make them do them?
When Dan looked at his watch, he saw he had been parked there nearly two hours. He couldn't give up. He needed to talk to her now and find out what she was doing and who she was with. He could text her, but she ignored those. Besides, the last time he did text she went running to the police claiming he was harassing her. He just wanted to talk to her.
Every time he tried to talk to her she threw that recorder in his face. He had to be careful what he said because they always turn his words around on him.
He saw her car approach the drive to her apartment building. Finally, the bitch was getting home. Where the hell had she been so long? Who had she been with? She wasn't working on a Saturday. She had no friends. He'd seen to that. He made sure to tell everyone what a horrible person she was, and how she treated him so badly. He'd been so good to her. He bought her things to replace the ones he broke when she made him mad.
He followed her car in and parked in the spot next to hers. She was alone and he saw fear on her face. Good. She should be scared. She's a mother. The mother to HIS children. She shouldn't be out running the town. He caught her in the act. He KNEW it! She was out whoring around again.
“What do you want, Dan? You don't belong here.” She had already pulled out that damn recorder and was holding it in his face as she asked him those questions.
“Why do you always have to have that thing in my face?” he asked as he pushed it away from him. “I just want to talk.”
“You always just want to talk, but you never have anything nice to say. If you aren't attacking me, you try to take my words out of context and pretend I said something I didn't. So, we can't have a conversation without this recorder so there is proof of what we both said. It's as much for your protection as it is mine.”
“Where were you today? Who was the guy you were with? Was he one of your boyfriends while you were still MY WIFE?” The recorder wasn't going to stop him this time. He needed answers.
There were cars in the parking lot but nobody was coming around. Carol looked around her nervously, realizing Dan had gone into “the zone.” That's what she called it. He was out of his head and one of his rages was coming on. There was no way to talk sense into him when he was in the zone.
“I don't know what you are talking about. I was alone! I went shopping and out to dinner ALONE. There were no boyfriends when we were married. There are no boyfriends now. Where are my kids? It's your weekend with them.”
“NOW you want to worry about MY kids? Where were you all their lives when they needed you? What were you doing while they were doing your chores?”
“You're delusional. The only reason things didn't get done as you wanted them to was because YOU insisted I spend every waking moment with you so I couldn't do the housework. All these boyfriends you claim I had are all in your own head. I didn't even have time to be with my children, much less have time for boyfriends, as you call them.”
His face twisted up in rage. He'd heard about all he was going to listen to. This bitch had broken up his family, hurt him and his kids, dared to leave him and now she was talking back, blaming HIM for all of their problems. HOW DARE SHE!
Before she knew what happened, she was dead. From out of nowhere, a knife had appeared in his hand. He'd killed and gutted out plenty of deer when he went hunting. He knew where the most effective arteries were to make it quick and clean. It was over.
Carol never had a chance to scream for help. Her neighbors were aware of their divorce and that he was abusive. If any of them had seen him in the parking lot with her, they would have either been watching with a phone in hand ready to call for help, or gone to stand outside to be closer in the event she needed quicker help. But, this time, this one time, they never saw a thing.
Dan was long gone by the time one of the neighbors came out to go to his car and found her lying half under her car where she fell. He saw the pool of blood before he saw her body. He broke down as he called it in to 911. They had become friends in the short time she lived there.
Would Carol still be alive if Cathy hadn't told Dan what she saw? Maybe. Maybe not. If it hadn't been Cathy, it might have been other friends saying something. They both still lived in the same hometown. Dan was jealous of anyone Carol talked to. He had spread lies about Carol when she left him. He didn't want any of their mutual friends taking Carol's side. They had to know he was the victim. He had trusted people back up his lies to make them seem more real.
Domestic abuse is like an invisible illness. From the outside, everything looks healthy. On the inside, everything is breaking down and falling apart. For this reason, when a victim suddenly leaves an abuser, it takes a lot of people by surprise. It's a simple thing for the abuser to win friends over by playing the victim. They never knew the hidden truth.
The rumors and lies spread easily until it's hard to figure out what is true and what isn't. Dan told everyone that Carol left him and had been running around behind his back. Because they had never seen problems in their marriage from the outside, friends sympathized with him and often repeated these lies until most of the community believed his story. Who would believe her now when she told the truth?
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All of our writers are freelance and survivors of trauma/abuse