A. Child Sexual Abuse
There is no one universal definition of child sexual abuse (American Psychological Association, 2011). However, "a central characteristic of any [child] abuse is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity" (American Psychological Association, 2011).
Generally speaking in West Virginia, child abuse involves a parent, guardian or custodian of a child who knowingly or intentionally inflicts an injury upon that child; and sexual abuse of children includes, but is not limited to, sexual intercourse, sexual intrusion and sexual contact (West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Child Protective Services, 2008) (See WVC§61-8B, 8C and 8D). Note that not all sexual violence committed against children is child sexual abuse as described above. Teenagers, for example, can experience sexual assault perpetrated by their peers. While child sexual abuse can be isolated to a single event, many children are sexually abused in some way over a period of years
Examples of child sexual abuse include:
A child who is being sexually abused may display symptoms such as:
(Note, however, that the presence of such symptoms is not necessarily reflective of child sexual abuse.)
Common emotional responses of children to sexual abuse include:
B. Prevalence of Sexual Violence for Persons with Disabilities
With the estimated high victimization rate for persons with disabilities, many residents in West Virginia are at risk. Almost 19 percent of West Virginia’s population has a disability (U.S. Census, American Community Survey, 2010). In addition to having the highest ratio of persons with disabilities, West Virginia has many other factors that contribute to increased risk of sexual victimization.
C. Risk Factors - When a Victim Has a Disability
Like other victims of sexual violence, victims with disabilities may feel powerless, vulnerable and afraid. However, many factors can complicate their ability to disclose the assault to others, reach out for help and/or access services. Sexual violence victims may have a cognitive, sensory or mobility disability or mental illness, or any combination of disabilities.
Commonly cited risk factors for sexual victimization for persons with a disability include (Ticoll, 1994; Day One et al., 2004):
D. BARRIERS THAT PERPETUATE THE RISK AND REDUCE REPORTING BY VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES
It is important to be aware of related barriers that may perpetuate the risk of sexual victimization and prevent reporting and seeking help by victims with disabilities, as listed below.
(Adapted from B1. Sexual Victimization of Persons with Disabilities: Prevalence and Risk Factors in the West Virginia Sexual Assault Free Environment (WV S.A.F.E.) Training and Collaboration Toolkit—Serving Victims with Disabilities. Accessible through www.fris.org.)
Barriers that May Perpetuate the Risk of Sexual Victimization and Prevent Reporting
Accessibility for persons with disabilities
E. Mandatory Reporting in WV
West Virginia law indicates that when a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect, such person shall immediately and not more than 24 hours after suspecting this abuse, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Mandatory reporters of suspected or observed mistreatment of a minor in West Virginia include:
DHHR maintains a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week telephone number to receive such calls (1-800-352-6513). Also, an oral report shall be followed by a written report within 24 hours if so requested by DHHR.
In any case where the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report or cause a report to be made to the State Police and any law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. A copy of reports made to DHHR of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or assault shall be forwarded by DHHR to the appropriate law enforcement agency, prosecuting attorney and/or coroner or medical examiner's office.
Any person required to report who is a staff member or a volunteer of a public or private institution/school/entity/facility/agency that provides organized activities for children, should immediately notify the person in charge of that institution/school/entity/facility/ agency, or a designated agent thereof, who may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made.
Note that any person, official or institution making a report of child abuse or neglect in good faith shall be immune from any related civil or criminal liability. Also, all reports of child abuse or neglect are confidential (including the identity of the reporter) with one potential exception: a family law judge can ask who the reporter was in certain circumstances (WVC §48-9-209 (10)(e)).
Special conditions regarding release of information and informed consent exist for minors and some “incapacitated” adults (WVC§9-6-9) with cognitive disabilities. Minors are typically unable to legally provide informed consent. Therefore, when the victim is a minor, the written release of information should be signed by the minor where possible and her/his non-abusive parent or guardian. Emancipated minors and minors who are married, however, can make most of their own decisions and do not need a signature of their parent or guardian (WVC§49-7-27). Release of information forms should be time-limited and specific
Reports should be made immediately to DHHR, Child Protective Services (CPS) or 800-352-6513. In any case it is believed that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report, or cause a report to be made, to the State Police and any law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. The oral report to DHHR should be followed with a written report within 24 hours.
If the mandatory reporter is a staff member or a volunteer of a public or private institution, school, entity that provides organized activities for children, facility or agency, the reporter should immediately notify the person in charge of that institution school, entity, facility or agency, or a designated agent thereof, who may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made.
Responding to Disclosures
Many victims have never told anyone about their experiences, The response of the first person to whom someone discloses is often a significant factor in how the victim will cope from that point forward.
The first responder’s words and actions can have a tremendous impact on the victim. Reacting to a disclosure with judgment and blame may lead the victim to think that the violence was his/her fault and lead the victim (adult, adolescent or child) to suffer through her traumatic reactions alone. Conversely, responding with support, compassion and accurate information about sexual violence, traumatic reactions and available resources may empower the victim to seek further assistance and begin the process of healing.
When interacting with a person with a disability (Adaptive Environments, Inc., 1992; Ward and Associates, 1994):
To support a child when abuse is disclosed:
F. Sex Offenses Against Minors
There are two major classifications of sex offenses in West Virginia (WVC§61-8B), both of which describe specific violations impacted by the young age of the victim and, in some cases, the age of the perpetrator. To summarize:
Some special considerations when working with young victims (Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, 2007):
Children and youth who experience sexual violence have many of the same reactions as adults. However, they are more likely to express their feelings and thoughts through aggressive or destructive behavior towards themselves, their peers and other adults. This does not mean, however, that they are not also experiencing emotional reactions. Rather, they may need some prompting and encouragement to express their feelings in a safe environment. Responding to their negative behaviors with punitive punishment probably will not be productive if the behavior is related to coping with trauma. While appropriate discipline and reprimands should be given, be sure to also convey support and acceptance so that feelings of stigma, powerlessness and worthlessness do not worsen. In general, it is beneficial for children and youth survivors of sexual violence to get ongoing support (e.g., from a local rape crisis center) and participate in individual therapy with experienced mental health clinicians to help them work through their trauma.
Keep in mind that child and youth victims of sexual violence often delay or withhold disclosures. One recent study (Alaggia, 2010) documented that individual factors (e.g., age at the onset of victimization and temperament and personality) can partly account for non-disclosures, but that a host of environmental factors (e.g., family dynamics, neighborhood and community influences and societal attitudes) are likely also involved. The research indicated that children and youth may attempt to disclose about their victimization over time in different ways, with a wide range of responses following their disclosures.
G. Response and Crisis Intervention
The coordination of interventions among those involved in the immediate response to disclosures of sexual abuse/assault is critical to helping victims. There may be several professionals/agencies in a community involved in the immediate response to a sexual abuse/assault, but at a minimum they usually include:
It is important to be prepared to help victims understand their reactions to sexual violence (including how it can cause traumatic reactions and the potential impact of the trauma).
You can also assist victims and their families in identifying available resources for support in dealing with emotional trauma. Rape crisis centers and child advocacy centers have specially trained staff to assist victims in dealing with this trauma and to help them restore a sense of control, dignity and self-respect in their lives. To contact a rape crisis center near you, call 1-800-656-HOPE.
Your response to a victim must be adapted to that person’s needs and circumstances. Keep in mind that a victim’s experiences and reactions to sexual violence may be affected by multiple factors, such as (Office on Violence Against Women, 2004):
Because there are so many variables that can affect a victim’s experience of and reaction to sexual violence, it is critical to try to determine what you need to know to better assist the child. Listen carefully to what the child has to say, observe the verbal and non-verbal cues, and let that guide you in how to best support your response.
Crisis intervention attempts to stabilize a person’s reactions to an immediate problem. Crisis intervention is sometimes referred to as “emotional first aid” designed to “stop the emotional bleeding.”
Many incidences can trigger crisis responses for a sexual violence victim—traumatic reactions to the assault itself, disclosing the assault, memories of the assault. Crisis management rather than resolution is the goal.
The response to a child in crisis may include:
Accommodations are often essential to allow a sexual assault victim with disabilities to access and benefit from available services. An accommodation is a modification to goods, services and structures that allows for inclusion and participation by a person with disabilities.
Some common accommodation tools to modify goods and services include:
In order to find out if accommodations are required and what accommodations are appropriate, ask each client with disabilities what she/he needs to access services. What is effective for one could be ineffective for another (see the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II Technical Assistance Manual II-7.1100).
Accommodations may also be needed to address safety challenges facing persons with specific types of disabilities as they strive to reduce their risk of sexual victimization. For example, for persons with vision disabilities, service animals should be included in any plan to flee a situation. Service animals should not be left behind.
For more information on safety planning issues specific to a particular type of disability, see B10. Safety Planning in the West Virginia Sexual Assault Free Environment (WV S.A.F.E.) Training and Collaboration Toolkit—Serving Victims with Disabilities, through the “Resources” link at www.fris.org.)
H. Resources – Statewide and Local
Services for Persons with Disability
West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WVCDHH)
866-461-3578 or www.wvdhhr.org/wvcdhh
WVCDHH offers a directory of interpreting service providers and resources.
West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council (WVSILC)
855-855-9743 or www.wvsilc.org
WVSILC offers a list of independent living centers (ILCs) and respective service areas in the state. ILCs are resource centers for persons with disabilities, providing information and referral, peer support, individual and systems advocacy, and independent living skills training.
West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (WVDRS)
800-642-8207 or www.wvdrs.org
WVDRS provides information and services related to employment for persons with disabilities, as well as a directory of local DRS offices.
West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (WVUCED)
888-829-9426 or www.cedwv.org
WVUCED provides supports and resources related to community living, assistive technology, traumatic brain injury, health and wellness, employment, specialty clinics, and specialized family care.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (WVDHHR)
304-558-0684 or www.wvdhhr.org
WVDHHR provides information about personal assistance services, family support services, early intervention, group homes, food stamps, community based services and supports, long term care facilities, behavioral health service and other state and federal programs available to support people with disabilities. It also offers a directory of local offices.
Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (OBHS)
304-558-0627 or www.wvdhhr.org/bhhf
OBHS provides information about public and private psychiatric services and supports.
Disability Rights of WV
304-346-0847 or www.drofwv.org
This organization provides protection and advocacy services throughout the state to protect the human and civil rights of persons with disabilities.
West Virginia Mental Health Consumer’s Association
800-598-8847 or www.wvmhca.org.
This consumer-run organization provides information and support services for individuals with mental health needs including leadership development, self-advocacy skills training and peer support.
Legal Aid of West Virginia
866-255-4370 or www.lawv.net
This organization provides legal services for civil problems and offers long term care ombudsmen.
West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council (WVDDC)
304-558-0416 or www.ddc.wv.gov
WVDDC provides leadership training for adults with developmental disabilities and parents of young children with disabilities, referred to as Partners in Policy Making, so they may be empowered to use their voices to influence decision makers.
Child Advocacy Centers
“The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network provides guidance, protection, and help to child and families affected by abuse.” To report abuse, call 1-800-352-6513 and your local law enforcement. If you’re experiencing an emergency, call 911. You can also contact the closest advocacy center for further info and assistance. To find your nearest advocacy center: https://wvcan.org/about/locations/
West Virginia’s Rape Crisis Centers
In West Virginia, there are nine rape crisis centers which can be utilized by victims of sexual violence. Rape crisis centers typically provide a range of services for victims and their families and friends. Services often include crisis intervention, emotional support, information and referral, advocacy, medical and legal accompaniment, safety planning, counseling and support groups, etc. All centers have 24-hour hotlines. Information about the specific services offered at the rape crisis centers can be found through www.fris.org. These regional centers provide free and confidential services. Support can be reached from any county by calling 1-800-656-HOPE.
P.O. Box 2963
Huntington, WV 25728
Family Refuge Center
P.O. Box 249
Lewisburg, WV 24901
P.O. Box 626
Fairmont, WV 26555
REACH Family Counseling Connection
1021 Quarrier St.,
Charleston, WV 25301
Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center
P.O. Box 4228
Morgantown, WV 26504
Sexual Assault Help Center
P.O. Box 6764
Wheeling, WV 26003
Shenandoah Women's Center
236 West Martin St.
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Women's Aid in Crisis
P.O. Box 2062
Elkins, WV 26241
Women's Resource Center
P.O. Box 1476
Beckley, WV 25802
As noted above, local hospital emergency departments—those with sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) trained in working with adolescents (SANE-A) and pediatrics (SANE-P)—are typically able to conduct forensic medical exams in addition to providing comprehensive care.
Victims and their families should be informed that medical bills incurred as a result of a sexual assault may be covered through covered through the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund. In West Virginia, the guardian of a minor who was victimized in the state is eligible to file a claim with the Crime Victims Compensation Fund (the claim must be filed within two years of the assault). The crime must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours (with some possible exceptions). These funds can be used to cover expenses such as medical and counseling bills as a result of the assault. For further information about how to receive Crime Victim Compensation Funds, visit www.fris.org.
Local child advocacy centers (CACs) can be an invaluable asset in facilitating an immediate response to children, adolescents and their families when a sexual assault has occurred. Contact the WV CAN network at (304) 414-4455, by e-mail at www.wvcan.org or the local rape crisis center for information about the CAC in your area.
The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information Services (FRIS), at www.fris.org, provides general and state-specific information and resources on sexual violence. In addition to serving as the coalition of the state’s rape crisis centers, FRIS develops and coordinates numerous trainings and resource materials for allied professionals.
Services for School Aged Children
Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention (ASPEN) Project
(304) 341-0511 or http://wvaspen.com
The ASPEN project serves youth in the secondary schools by increasing awareness and screening, ultimately facilitating a mobile, quick response team to serve at-risk students. It also strives to enhance education, communication, collaboration and connections among the entities interacting with at-risk youth, in order to rectify system gaps and facilitate a culturally competent, caring, comprehensive, sustainable suicide prevention and intervention system of care.
Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities
Office of Behavioral Health Services (OBHS)
(304) 558-0627 or www.wvdhhr.org/bhhf
OBHS is responsible for programmatic oversight of state-funded community based behavioral healthcare services. There are four divisions: Adult Mental Health, Children’s Services, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Developmental Disabilities.
Children Justice Center – Handle With Care
WV Center for Children’s Justice
WV State Police Headquarters
725 Jefferson Road
South Charleston, WV 25309
WV Center for Children’s Justice
WV State Police Headquarters
725 Jefferson Road
South Charleston, WV 25309
Early Childhood Health Project (ECHP)
Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health
Division of Infant, Child and Adolescent Health
Bureau for Public Health, Department of Health and Human Resources
(304) 558-5388 or www.wvdhhr.org/echp/contactus.asp
ECHP is a collaboration of individuals and agencies working together to improve the health and safety of young children while in out-of-home care in West Virginia.
Prevent Child Abuse WV (PCA-WV)
(866) 4-KIDSWV or www.preventchildabusewv.org
PCA-WV works to give children good beginnings by strengthening families and communities. PCA-WV is a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, which builds awareness and provides education to keep children free from abuse and neglect.
West Virginia Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (WV BHHFs)
WV BHHFs provide services and programs organized to meet the needs of people with a mental illness, chemical addiction or developmental disability. There are currently 83 organizations with West Virginia behavioral healthcare provider licenses as issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Office of Health Facilities Licensing and Certification. In addition, there are hospitals, distinct parts of hospitals and private practitioners devoted to treatment and serving those with behavioral healthcare needs. Go to the website for a listing of agencies by county, with contact information and information about services offered.
West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Special Programs (WV DOE OSP)
(304) 558-2696 or www.wvde.state.wv.us./osp
WV DOE OSP oversees and monitors educational and related services and programs (preschool to adult students and those with disabilities). This office addresses issues related to special education and related services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Healthy Schools
(304) 558-8830 or wvde.state.wv.us/healthyschools/
The Office of Healthy Schools provides leadership, training and support for schools and their communities to improve collaboration and ensure the health and educational achievement of children in a safe, nurturing and disciplined environment.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (WVDHHR)
(304) 558-0684 or www.wvdhhr.org
WVDHHR provides information about children, family support services, early intervention, group homes, food stamps, community based services and supports, behavioral health services and other state and federal programs available to support children who are victims of sexual violence. It also offers a directory of local offices.
West Virginia Emergency Medical Services Technical Support Network (WV EMS-TSN) Medley-Hartley Advocacy Program
(304) 366-3022 or www.wvoems.org/support/wv-ems-tsn
The program provides state-wide advocacy services, monitoring the implementation of Medley and Hartley Court orders to provide services to class members (individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities) named in court cases. Medley class members are individuals with intellectual disabilities who were institutionalized prior to the age of 23. Hartley class members include all West Virginia residents with a disability including developmental disabilities, mental illness, traumatic brain injury or substance abuse issues who are at risk for institutionalization, regardless of age.
West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
(304) 344-1872 or http://www.wvhealthykids.org/
West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation (tax-exempt status applied for; West Virginia Council of Churches, fiscal sponsor) bringing together individuals, private organizations, and state agencies to work to improve the health of children and families in West Virginia. It provides a forum for diverse organizations to discuss, coordinate and collaborate on issues that improve the health and well-being of West Virginia children.
West Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Division
(800) 368-8808 or www.wvago.gov/civilrights.cfm
The Civil Rights Division prosecutes cases on behalf of victims of discrimination. In West Virginia, unlawful discrimination is a human rights violation. This division handles cases of public accommodation discrimination and bias motivated harassment and intimidation.
West Virginia Prevention Resource Center (WVPRC)
(304) 766-6301 or www.prevnet.org/
Through a variety of federally funded projects and initiatives, WVPRC works to build the capacity of individuals, organizations and agencies to promote the well-being of their communities.
West Virginia School Based Health Assembly (WVSBHA)
(304) 444-5917 or www.wvsbha.org
The mission of the WVSBHA is to advance comprehensive health care in school settings through responsive policies, practices and partnerships. WVSBHA serves as the lead membership organization in the state for the advancement of school-based health care.
West Virginia State Police–Crimes Against Children Unit
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC)
The ICAC program helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This help encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services and community education.
I. Shared Philosophy
This shared philosophy incorporates the following fundamental beliefs: