Tag: Covid-19

Our View: Person-to-Person Therapy is Safer than Apps & Websites

We at Horowitz Law strongly believe that victims of sexual abuse need and deserve the best therapy possible.

And we believe that survivors should pick a therapist carefully and keep trying out professionals until one ‘clicks.’ Because mental health is like physical health – it’s best if there’s good ‘chemistry’ between you and the professional.

Here are two excellent articles about the benefits of therapy:

https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-can-therapy-help

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/abuse/benefits-of-sexual-abuse-counseling/

And here are some suggestions on HOW to choose a counselor:

https://www.snapnetwork.org/choosing_a_therapist

And here’s how to find a therapist near you:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/sexual-abuse

Finally, if you are not sure you want to start therapy or can afford it? Here are some self-help books for survivors:

http://guidetoselfhelpbooks.com/childhood-abuse.htm

That said, those in pain should know there’s a new wrinkle when it comes to getting help during the Covid-19 pandemic, as more and more suffering survivors turn to apps and the internet for guidance.

Piers Gooding at Slate puts it well: “Online resources for mental health come with privacy risks.”

https://slate.com/technology/2020/05/covid19-mental-health-apps-websites-privacy-anonymity.html

To minimize the chance of spreading Covid-19, many therapists are holding sessions via Zoom and Skype. This seems to us to be a much better and safer avenue than trying out new apps or websites for help.

We’re very reluctant to say or do anything that might discourage people who’ve endured predator-induced pain from seeking help. At the same time, however, we want to make sure that people who have already been so severely hurt aren’t hurt again, however unintentionally.

In our experience, the vast majority of therapists are wonderful, caring and competent professionals who are ultra-conscious of safeguarding the privacy and honoring the boundaries of survivors. We rarely hear of a therapist who hurts a client in any way.

Want to talk with someone first, before making a decision about counseling? Feel free to call us.

Some Landlords are Sexually Exploiting Tenants During This Pandemic

We’ve all seen the stories about selfish profiteers who exploit Covid-19 fears by peddling fake or untested treatment that purportedly ward off Covid-19 or cures it.

But lately, we at Horowitz Law have seen even more startling stories about a different kind of pandemic predators – landlords who exploit desperate renters by seeking sex in exchange for payment leniency.

Trying to sexually exploit the vulnerable, at any time under any circumstances, is of course despicable. But doing so during a health and financial crisis like this is even worse.

A BuzzFeedNews headline tells it all: “Her Landlord Asked To Spend The Night With Her After She Lost Her Job And Couldn’t Afford Rent”

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/amberjamieson/renter-sexually-harassed-by-landlord-during-coronavirus

Gail Savage is a now-unemployed Indianapolis bartender raising a two year old. Via text, she warned her landlord she couldn’t pay April rent until her federal stimulus check arrived. He messaged back asking her if she would “stay all night” with him. At first, she assumed he’d texted the wrong number. But in more texts, he made his coercive sexual intent clear.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/amberjamieson/renter-sexually-harassed-by-landlord-during-coronavirus?ref=bfnsplash

While women are most often victimized, it happens to men too. Another Indianapolis renter, 20 year old Jerry Miles, also told BuzzFeed his landlord threatened to rape him, bring friends along (insinuating they would gang-rape him) and told him he and his friends would have to do it every day until the debt was paid.

Some 33 million people have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic began. Advocates say this means more tenants are vulnerable and at risk of harassment than ever before.

And tragically, this doesn’t just happen here and doesn’t just happen in pandemics. Sexual crimes in war zones are also painfully common.

In the Sunday New York Times, we read about a horrific “Sophie’s Choice” facing some Pakistani families.

Shelling has increased recently along part of the India – Pakistan border, “sending more families rushing to community bunkers when the alarm sirens ring. But some families will be leaving girls and young women behind in their vulnerable homes — choosing to risk the falling shells rather than face the sexual assault that is epidemic in the cramped bunkers.”

Here’s one such case:

“When mortars started slamming into her village in the Neelum Valley on the Pakistani-held side in August, Mehnaz and her family fled to a musty bunker owned by her neighbor, she said. Dozens of people were crammed in for hours until the shelling subsided.

“One of the men began touching me,” said Mehnaz, who like others interviewed by The New York Times asked that only part of her name be used because of the stigma of sexual assault. “It was dark and all the parents were concerned about the shelling. No one was paying attention.”

She spent fearful hours trying to swat away the man’s groping hands and failing all too often. When the firing stopped and her family returned home, Mehnaz told her mother what had happened.

“She said she could not do anything,” Mehnaz said, angry. The man who molested her owned the bunker. Mehnaz’s mother worried that he would cut the family off from that speck of safety if they complained.

It’s hard to put into words just how disturbing this awful behavior is. . .

We at Horowitz Law are grateful to those who are stepping up to help in these heart-breaking situations, including the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and The National Fair Housing Alliance.

We’re also grateful to Ms. Savage, Mr. Miles, Mhenaz and others who are exposing these abhorrent landlords and the journalists who help them do so.

(Staff at a New York group offers renters this advice: try to document any forms of harassment, if possible, such as taking video or recording a conversation; save copies of any texts or emails, and make multiple copies to share with a lawyer or friend; and keep any letters from a landlord or take photos of them.)

Ms. Savage, the Indianapolis bartender, hopes to sue her landlord. We hope she does.

And if you or someone you knows has suffered or is suffering this kind of bald-faced intimidation, exploitation or abuse, we hope you’ll consider calling us here at Horowitz Law.

pandemic sexual abuse

What Does the Pandemic Have to Do With Sexual Abuse?

Brace yourselves. Some grim numbers about child sexual abuse have surfaced recently that remind us of how hard it is to stop predators.

—During this pandemic, what was feared has now been proven: Child sexual abuse is on the rise in recent weeks.

A national abuse hotline reports “a 22% increase in calls from people younger than 18,” according to National Public Radio. The network also reports:

“Statistically speaking, home is not the safest place for every young person. About 34% of child sexual abusers are family members. Closing schools and canceling youth activities like sports removes children from the watchful eyes of “mandatory reporters” — those trusted adults, like teachers, nurses and child care providers, who are required by law in most states to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect.”

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/28/847251985/child-sexual-abuse-reports-are-on-the-rise-amid-lockdown-orders

—Another tragic new trend: An NBC News report is headlined “Child sexual abuse images and online exploitation surge during COVID-19 pandemic.”

It notes that “with tech companies’ moderation efforts constrained by the pandemic, distributors of child sexual exploitation material are growing bolder, using major platforms to try to draw audiences.”

https://www.wrcbtv.com/story/42047054/child-sexual-abuse-images-and-online-exploitation-surge-during-covid19-pandemic

—And a third bit of troubling news: A Guardian headline reads that “Lockdown hampering removal of child sexual abuse material online.”

The number of web pages featuring abuse being removed “has plummeted 89% during pandemic,” the newspaper reports, because “tech companies and law enforcement agencies were operating with reduced numbers of staff and did not have the capacity to take down the material.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/27/lockdown-hampering-removal-of-child-sexual-abuse-material-online

We at Horowitz Law wish there were a quick and simple remedy to both the horror of child sexual abuse AND the horror of Covid-19.  But we’re reminded of this bit of wisdom uttered by President Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

(Thanks to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which runs the national abuse hotline.)

Call an Abuse Survivor Today or Someone in a Tough Relationship

During this pandemic, reports of possible child abuse are down and reports of domestic violence are up. Both trends are troubling. You can help make a difference here.

About 70% of all suspected child abuse reports come from teachers, counselors and doctors. As fewer kids see these professionals, fewer reports get made.

Is more child abuse happening now, as families are cooped up together? No one knows. But fewer reports are being called in to state child protection agencies.

That means that some children who would benefit from the intervention of child safety workers aren’t getting attention these days because of the Covid-19 crisis.

But it’s different with domestic violence, advocates say. Partner and spousal abuse IS happening more often now, they believe.

According to NBC News, “as lawmakers across the country order lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus, the lives of people stuck in physically or emotionally abusive relationships have — and will — become harder, which has already been seen in the pandemic hotspots of China and Italy.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/experts-fear-child-abuse-will-increase-coronavirus-isolation-n1170811

An abuse hotline director says she expects “the intensity and frequency of abuse escalate, a pattern that experts witnessed during the economic downturn of 2008 and immediately after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52081280

How can you help?

— Call someone you know today who may be in a situation like this. When victims feel ignored or isolated, their pain is compounded. So take just a few minutes to pick up the phone and connect.

— Share on social media the contact info for helpful groups at the bottom of this blog.

— Donate to organizations that fight against these two scourges. Sure, lots of groups and even for-profit businesses need help these days. But those suffering violence or at risk of suffering violence should never be far from our thoughts and near ‘the front of the line’ for our help.

Resources for victims and survivors:

Anti-Violence Project offers a 24-hour English/Spanish hotline for L.G.B.T.Q.+ experiencing abuse or hate-based violence: call 212-714-1141

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available around the clock and in more than 200 languages: call 1-800-799-SAFE or chat with their advocates here or text LOVEIS to 22522.

For those who seeking help from domestic violence, signs of common abuse types, tips on emergency planning, tech safety, and a list support programs for housing, immigration, and financial independence can be found at https://www.safety.com/family-safety/how-to-find-help-from-domestic-violence/

Comprehensive guide that highlights the increased vulnerability for victims and how to support these populations during unprecedented times. Domestic Violence During the Pandemic: Resources for Victims and Survivors https://www.mymove.com/moving/guides/domestic-violence-resources/

RAINN, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network 800.656.HOPE (4673). When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider.

New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline is available in multiple languages: call 1-800-942-6906 for English. For deaf or hard of hearing: 711

For immediate dangers, call 911.

Diocese of Erie, Father Michael Amy- Horowitz Law

Pennsylvania Diocese Suspends Compensation Fund Payments to Clergy Abuse Victims

Diocese of Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico is making deeply wounded sex abuse victims suffer even more, and betraying them once again, blaming Covid-19 related stock market declines. At a time when abuse victims need help more than ever, Persico is unilaterally ending, for at least 90 days, the already-inadequate compensation program he set up. This decision will impact at least 40 clergy sexual abuse claimants at the worst possible time.

Men and women who were sexually violated by Erie priests, brothers, monks, nuns, seminarians, and lay employees should not have to be hurt again because Catholic officials acted irresponsibly with the Diocese’s money and acted with callous disregard to their own process, a process created supposedly for healing and accountability.

Once again, a Catholic bishop is putting the comfort and convenience of he and his fellow clerics ahead of the well-being of the most severely wounded members of his flock.

Back in August 2019, more than six months ago, the Diocese of Erie knew exactly how many sexual abuse victims wanted to participate in the ISCP process. At that point, it could and should have made two simple, common sense moves. First, the Bishop of Erie should have taken immediate steps to protect the funds he promised were set aside for the ISCP claimants.  Second, the Bishop should have insisted that the fund administrators get money to the deserving and often desperate victims whose claims were still pending.

But he chose not to do the right thing, like so many of his predecessors that put the Diocese in this position in the first place. And now the Bishop is insisting that victims of child molesting clerics pay for his short-sightedness and selfishness.

https://www.goerie.com/news/20191210/erie-dioceses-abuse-related-costs-rise-to-12-million

We at Horowitz Law have dealt with hundreds of victims across the US for several decades.  We have closely observed the actions (and inactions) of hundreds of Catholic officials. Unless and until the Diocese of Erie completely ‘comes clean’ with its finances, we refuse to believe Bishop Persico and his diocese have suddenly encountered insurmountable financial obstacles. If Catholic officials will deceive parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public about predator priests, they’ll device people about their own money too.  This only adds insult to catastrophic injury.

We believe ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ Officials elsewhere who have ignored or concealed heinous child sex crimes, when finally confronted by brave victims, have sold property, borrowed money, cut salaries, laid off staff, sued insurers and taken many other creative and aggressive steps to fulfill the responsibility to those they and their colleagues, underlings, and predecessors have so hurtfully chosen to betray. Persico should do the same. Remember that back in 2003, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law – no hero to abuse victims – borrowed $25 million from the Knights of Columbus to honor his pledge to settle with those victims.

Finally, Persico’s unilateral and self-serving move here will make it much tougher on victims, their advocates and even parishioners across the US to have any faith in any similar program created by any bishop anywhere. It should make lawmakers even more willing to support ‘civil window’ legislation that enables victims of abuse and cover up to seek justice in the best way possible: through our open, time-tested courts.  Clearly, and once again, Catholic leaders cannot be trusted to do that on their own.

 

Fight Covid-19 By Letting Prisoners Go? Let’s Be Careful!

A 75-year-old who relies on a walker probably can’t be a car-jacker.

An 80-year-old who uses a wheelchair probably isn’t going to hold up a 7-11.

But let’s remember that either of them could hurt a child.

Some say that because of Covid-19, we should let many inmates leave prison early. That might be a good idea in some cases.

Still, let’s keep the sex offenders locked up. They do incredible damage. They’re among the most likely to commit more crimes. And they don’t need to be fast or strong to inflict harm.

A purse snatcher needs speed. A bank robber needs a gun, mask and get-away car. A child molester only needs access, and sometimes only for a few seconds.

It also helps an abuser, of course, if he or she is cunning. (That helps him or her GAIN access and go uncaught.) Sadly, however, older abusers are often the most shrewd, in part because they’ve had years more experience.

So prison officials shouldn’t be lax just because a child molester is bald, wears thick glasses or is stoop-shouldered. An aging abuser may be among the most dangerous.

We all know that hospitals, cruise ships and restaurants are risky places to be these days. Jails and prisons, however, are likely even more risky, given how unsanitary and crowded they are and how impossible ‘social distancing’ is when two adults share a tiny cell.

That’s why, according to the Associated Press, “Coronavirus has become a ‘get out of jail’ card for hundreds of low-level inmates across the country” and “America’s nearly 7,000 jails, prisons and correction facilities are an ideal breeding ground for the virus. . .”

https://apnews.com/076cd5c4900c021ffddcc53b2a06f2af

So again, from a public health standpoint, releasing some inmates makes sense. But NOT those who sodomize, rape and fondle kids, no matter how old or allegedly ‘reformed’ the offender may seem.

Miami defense lawyer Bill Barzee makes a valid point: “No judge wants to have a dead prisoner on his conscience.”

Neither, though, would a judge want to have the rape of a girl or boy on his conscience, knowing that it could have been prevented with just a bit of caution and common sense.