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Years later, she would learn that her brother had already reported the abuse to the same elders. When she read the transcript of the Conti trial, she discovered that it was Watchtower doctrine and had been used for decades to prevent other abused children from getting help. Soon, both she and Mark would leave the organization for good.
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Close friends stared at their feet when Kimmy ran into them at Walmart. His business faltered. He and Kimmy had some savings to fall back on and would find other tenants. Mark told Evans his story and thanked him for the work he was doing. To his surprise, Evans wrote back, suggesting some online ex-Witness groups he should join.
As he connected with ex-Witnesses around the world, he was struck by how similar their accounts were to his own. He began writing about his experiences on Facebook. His posts spurred conversations among former Witnesses, giving him a new sense of purpose. By a strange twist of fate, one member, Geoffrey Jackson, was in Australia at the time, tending to his sick father. Watchtower had managed to avoid a subpoena by claiming that the Governing Body was strictly advisory and played no role in creating policy. Stewart used the manual to subpoena Jackson.
It was an emotional moment for those whose abuse Watchtower had denied. Perhaps, Mark thought, his extensive collection of Watchtower ephemera and his encyclopedic knowledge of the religion could be used for something other than recruiting. The conference marked the first time that Mark used his real name as an activist, figuring the Witnesses he knew in Baltimore were unlikely to hear about the small overseas gathering. In , a PIMO man and his girlfriend began walking into Kingdom Halls in Massachusetts, opening locked file cabinets with a set of stolen keys, and removing or making copies of sealed documents.
They had heard chatter about Watchtower covering up child abuse and, at first, simply wanted to see the evidence themselves. Most of the documents they took were letters between local elders and Watchtower headquarters, or from one congregation to another, discussing the alleged sins of individual congregants. A woman was disfellowshipped for having sex with her ex-husband when he came over to plow her driveway during a snowstorm. In total, 12 individuals are named as suspected child molesters, though missing documents make it difficult to piece together some of the stories.
Just five sentences long, the letter informed Watchtower that a ministerial servant had admitted to physically and mentally abusing his wife for years. No mention was made of involving police or taking steps to protect the wife. Judas had blacked out the names of the couple and the congregation, but not the date. Jason Wynne saw the letter and sent Judas a private message, warning him that he could be exposing himself and others to legal trouble or harassment by posting sensitive documents online.
Judas replied, asking for advice on how to release his other documents.
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He also used secure channels to send scanned copies to Mark and Wynne. Though they wanted to eventually leak redacted versions of every document involving a criminal act, they decided to start with one big story: the case of a Witness man from the Palmer Congregation in Brimfield, Massachusetts, who allegedly abused his two daughters and another young girl.
The story plays out across 33 letters—69 pages in all—between the congregation and Watchtower headquarters. He allegedly took one of his daughters into the woods and showed her where he would bury each of her body parts if she told. At first, the elders took only nominal action because one of the sisters refused to accuse her father in person. In , the elders finally disfellowshipped the man after he confessed to molesting one daughter. But he was reinstated a year later, partly because the daughter who had accused him of years of rape refused to answer new questions from the elders, who expressed disapproval in the letters that she and her husband had alerted civil authorities.
Mark and Wynne, nervous about trafficking in stolen documents, wanted to create another layer of protection for Judas and themselves. They shared the Palmer documents with McKnight, who used them as the inaugural posts for a new site, FaithLeaks. On January 9, , the documents went live on FaithLeaks , and Gizmodo published its story. Other American outlets picked it up —as did media in the U. A month after the documents appeared online, McKnight received an email from an officer with the Brimfield Police Department; the Palmer Congregation had reported the theft of its documents, and wanted the perpetrator brought to justice.
The officer asked McKnight about the source of the letters he had published, but McKnight had no information to give. McKnight reached out to the victim to let her know that the police were interested in talking with her. In August, I spoke with the police officer who had contacted McKnight, and a spokesperson for the Hampden County district attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Brimfield. Both told me that their offices continue to gather information on the Palmer case, but they could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation into the alleged abuser had been opened.
An investigation into the theft of the Watchtower documents is ongoing. For the first time in his adult life, Mark grew close to his parents, and Kimmy became a daughter to them. Though he and Kimmy had—to their great surprise—still not been disfellowshipped, they did not know what to expect. Both had become vocal Watchtower critics online and no longer bothered to hide their identities.
Still, there is an unwritten rule among Witnesses that funerals are a no-shun zone. They were mostly greeted warmly, and both were glad to see some old friends. He said he planned to send the documents describing serious crimes to the relevant local authorities. And he was excited about more documents he expected to receive soon.
I asked him about a picture that had been on display at the funeral, a faded Polaroid showing a large group of people wading into an aboveground pool in a large, empty parking lot. He laughed. The secretary of labor, under fire for his handling of a sex-trafficking case, spoke for 53 minutes without saying he was sorry. Facing calls for his resignation, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta held a press conference today in Washington to address his handling of the case against Jeffrey Epstein , the billionaire sex offender.
Acosta, then a U. Epstein was allowed 12 hours of work release from the prison, six days a week. After a lengthy Miami Herald investigation was published last year, federal prosecutors in New York brought new charges against Epstein this week. That has placed renewed scrutiny on Acosta. Instead, he offered lawyerly, mild answers about his investigation, in essence arguing that while the deal the government cut with Epstein was bad, it was much better than what state prosecutors were requesting, and was better than nothing.
The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives. In a country where the laws compel the use of cars, Americans are condemned to lose friends and relatives to traffic violence. My childhood neighbor was a varsity student-athlete, the president of the junior class, and the most popular girl in school. One day in September , a car crash took her life. She had been driving home on the freeway when her car went across the median and collided with one going the opposite direction, killing both drivers.
A third vehicle was said to have struck her car moments before, causing her to lose control. The police put out a call for information, apparently without success. But at the time, it felt like a basically unavoidable tragedy. In our small city in Michigan—like almost everywhere in America—driving is the price of first-class citizenship.
We never stopped to ask whether a different bargain was possible. Since her passing, approximately 1 million more Americans have been killed in car crashes. A ,year-old skull is the oldest Homo sapiens fossil found outside Africa. In , in a cave called Apidima at the southern end of Greece, a group of anthropologists found a pair of human-like skulls.
One had a face, but was badly distorted; the other was just the left half of a braincase. Researchers guessed that they might be Neanderthals, or perhaps another ancient hominin. By thoroughly analyzing both skulls using modern techniques, Harvati and her colleagues have shown that they are very different, in both age and identity. Sometimes a case challenges Black's methodology. In , the Greater Manchester Police asked her to work on the case of paedophile Jeremy Oketch, a year-old pharmacist who had twice raped a two-year-old girl and filmed the assaults. Although it was impossible to prove, the child's silent compliance suggested that she had been drugged.
And although the police had 55 minutes of footage to examine, the only visible parts of the rapist were a hand and his penis. The video was so distressing, recalls Black, that when judge Hilary Manley left the courtroom to view it, she returned visibly shaken. Was Black affected herself? But you have to stay objective. It's not my place to go back to analyse the incident, it's my job to find something of value to the investigation. The Oketch case presented her with two technical problems. First, he was black, "and all the people we had looked at previously had been white.
I didn't know if all the features would be as visible on black skin, but they were. That sounds ideal, but such apparent certainty brings its own risks. Black takes a file from a cabinet and slips out her report on Oketch to show me it is in the public domain, having been used in a Crown prosecution. Information is tabulated. Under "Hand" appears a long list of features: "Hand morphology", "Thumb nail groove from asymmetrical lunule", "Vein pattern" and so on.
Under "Penis", a similar list: "Penile morphology", "Vein pattern", "Lateral deviation". Each feature is marked to show whether it's the same on the rapist and the suspect. They all are. Part of this work is knowing how to look; asking yourself what you might not be noticing," Black says. In the end, the match appeared strong. When presented with Black's report, Oketch changed his plea from not guilty to guilty; he got 15 years. That plea change was important, Black says. It meant money that would otherwise have been spent on trials was saved. It also meant the child was spared from having to give evidence in court.
When Black analyses the backs of hands in footage she maps a grid of 24 cells, then looks for identifying marks and highlights in the vein patterns. B lack's team helps police forces around the world - including the FBI, Interpol and Europol - and works on 30 to 50 cases a year. In the cases Black has worked on since , the percentage in which the accused have changed their plea to guilty in response to her analysis stands at Black also takes on cases related to circumstances such as those in which the perpetrator has disguised their face.
Grants have helped expand the database and her team have reduced the time it takes to compile a report. When a case comes in from the police, Black administrates the project, but the client pays the university; any payment to Black's team could be seen to compromise its objectivity. Images or video material are delivered on encrypted drives and handed to her in person. Black works in a team of three but she first views all video evidence herself, absorbing the initial shock on behalf of colleagues.
After that, she shares material she thinks is important with Lucina Hackman, a senior lecturer in human identification at the department, and both women independently single out the pictures that best highlight key anatomical features. Then they agree about the offender's important features and a photographic specialist on the team, Chris Rynn, will enhance the images digitally. Once they have established the offender's features, they study images of the suspect, trying to establish a match.
Roughly speaking, the degree of certainty on any biometric is dictated by the size of a data set. Black's is not yet big enough to justify stating a statistical probability, so instead she follows the system used by the judiciary, which objectively grades the possibility of a match. Even with clear images of a suspect's and perpetrator's hands, it is impossible to scientifically guarantee a match, as that depends on all the anatomical features present. A suspect can be excluded with per cent certainty, but a match can only carry a grade of "strong support" that the suspect and the offender are the same person.
This equates to between a 1-in-1, to 1-in, chance that it could be someone else. Often this is enough for the accused to change their plea as there is normally additional evidence to implicate the person. If you're wondering why no one is investing billions to create million-strong data sets, Black says it's because there's no money for research into catching child abusers. In the forensic field, most research funding goes into DNA, because it's what they know and trust and there's a drive to do things quicker and cheaper.
We think we might get to something that's as good as fingerprinting. We're now looking at whether we can do skin-crease patterns on knuckles," Black says. It could allow us to identify and look for the first-generation producers. It would also mean reducing the strain that these images places on officers. They take a terrible toll. When asked about the possibility that, as forensic hand analysis becomes more common, paedophiles will start wearing gloves, Black is adamant: "They won't. Most people who commit crimes aren't very bright.
They think they'll never get caught. During a trip to Thailand in , Kent-based Dean Lewis Hardy took indecent photos of four girls aged eight to ten years old, including images of his hand touching them. Five years later, he was found guilty of indecent assault after being identified through an analysis of the images of his hands. He received a six-year sentence. Prosecutors said it was the first case to use hand analysis. Black found Hardy's scars matched that of the suspect, along with his freckle pattern and thumb skin creases. Therefore, we had features of different aetiology.
Left: The left index finger of the offender is on the right, and that of the suspect Dean Lewis Hardy on the left. It highlights the freckles and a four-point punctuated scar. Middle: The index finger of Hardy is on the right and the offender on the left.
A filter has been used to make the freckles more obvious, then grouped into patterns that can be compared between the suspect and the offender. Right: Both images feature the thumbs of the suspect. The creases of the skin, nails and lunule - the crescent-shaped marking - have been outlined to assist the comparison with the images of the offender.
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I n June , Black was asked by Kent Police to work on the case against Richard Huckle, one of the worst predatory paedophiles in British history. That they never leave their children with strangers. That they always keep their children within their eyesight. Do your children go on play dates? Do they go to daycare or pre-school?
I never got any help, any kind of therapy. I never told anyone.
Do you have friends or family over to your house? The fact is, you cannot fully prevent the risk of your child being sexually abused. The children I have worked with have come from good neighborhoods, and good homes, and go to really good schools. I have worked with children who have been sexually abused on play dates, sleepovers, in the classroom, on the playground, on the school bus, in their playroom and out in their backyard. We have to allow our children to go out into the world and interact with those around them. But we can arm them with knowledge that might save them from being victimized.
Parents do not always talk to their children about body safety early enough. They think kids are too young.
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It is too scary. Here are things 10 things that could help your child be less vulnerable to sexual abuse:. Name body parts and talk about them very early. Use proper names for body parts, or at least teach your child what the actual words are for their body parts. Tell your child that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else. Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret.