TIME

Australian Dad Accused of Abusing Thai-Born Twins

Thailand A Surrogate's Story
Police colonel Decha Promsuwan, an investigator in a surrogacy scandal involving a Japanese businessman, shows documents during an interview at Lumpini police station in Bangkok on Aug. 26, 2014 Sakchai Lalit—AP

The charges are the latest blow to the credibility of the commercial surrogacy industry in Thailand

(CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA) — An Australian man has been charged with sexually abusing twin girls he fathered several years ago to a Thai surrogate mother in another case that casts a harsh light on Thailand’s beleaguered surrogacy industry.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was charged in a New South Wales state court last year with committing acts of indecency with a victim under 10 years old, court documents showed Tuesday. The girls were around 4 and 5 years old, Nine Network television reported.

The charges are the latest blow to the credibility of the commercial surrogacy industry in Thailand, which the Southeast Asian country’s military junta has vowed to shut down.

Court documents show that the father, who is in his 50s, has also been charged with possessing child pornography materials that were found in a raid on his home, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The man, who denies the allegations, will go on trial in the coastal city of Gosford on Dec. 8, documents show. He is currently free on bail.

The twins were born about seven years ago to a 23-year-old Thai surrogate mother, Siriwan Nitichad, also known as Aon, who lives in Thailand’s Petchabun province.

Aon agreed to act as a surrogate for a couple from Australia who could not conceive on their own, ABC reported.

“They said they were just married and they really wanted to have a baby so much,” Aon told ABC. “She said her husband wanted to have a baby so much, please help them, please help them.”

Aon agreed to use her own eggs with the Australian man’s sperm. She said she was paid 170,000 baht ($5,300).

She said the twins were born with lung and other health problems. They were 4 or 5 months old when she handed them over to the Australian couple.

“They were so lovely, I wanted them to stay with me, I did not want to let them go,” Aon told ABC.

“If they asked if they could cancel their payment and we kept the babies, I would definitely have said ‘yes,'” she added.

Court documents show that the father became unemployed, allegedly had a violent temper and the marriage broke down, ABC reported.

The children are now in the care of the ex-wife of the accused man, and Australian child welfare authorities are working on plans for their care, ABC said.

Ilya Smirnoff, executive director of Childline Thailand Foundation, a child welfare organization, said Tuesday that Australian officials had considered sending the twins back to Thailand to live with their biological mother after their father was charged.

But Australia’s Family Court issued an order last year on the girls’ long-term care, he said. Smirnoff would not detail the terms of the order, or say who cares for the girls.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is negotiating with Thai authorities to help Australian couples bring home babies already conceived by Thai surrogates before the recent crackdown on the industry, said Tuesday it could not comment on specific cases due to privacy considerations.

The New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services would not answer questions about the girls’ current living circumstances and potential for returning to Thailand, saying in a statement that it was “unable to provide any comments about this matter.”

Thai authorities have been cracking down on the largely unregulated surrogacy industry since recent publicity over allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned a baby boy born to a surrogate Thai mother after learning he had Down syndrome. The couple, who took the boy’s healthy twin sister home, has said they wanted to bring the boy with them and the Thai surrogate has acknowledged she kept him because she feared he would end up in a state institution.

TIME sexual abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse Raises Heart Disease Risk In Adulthood

Researchers link early sexual abuse to greater risk of developing blocked heart arteries

Sexual and physical abuse during childhood can have long term effects on both mental and physical health, and previous studies have linked childhood sexual abuse to a greater risk of heart attack and other heart events—but it has been unclear exactly why. New research published Thursday in the journal Stroke adds to the case, showing thatwhether or not women had other risk factors for heart problems, a history of childhood sexual abuse remained a strong potential contributor to their atherosclerosis.

“What was a surprise was that when we controlled for [heart disease] risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, the association didn’t go away. We just couldn’t get rid of the association,” says Rebecca Thurston, director of the Womens’ Biobehavioral Health Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the research with a team of colleagues.

MORE: Viewpoint: Why a Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Law Could Backfire

More than 1,000 middle-aged women of various ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S. had yearly clinical exams beginning in 1996 for 12 years. At the end of the study, they also answered questions about sexual and physical abuse and had an ultrasound of their carotid arteries. About a quarter of the women reported being sexually abused as a child, and a similar percentage reported the experience as an adult.

When Thurston compared the women’s answers to their ultrasound, she found that those who reported childhood sexual abuse showed higher rates of plaque buildup in their arteries. They also had hearts and vessels that looked about two to three years older than those of women who hadn’t been abused.

MORE: Psychological Abuse: More Common, as Harmful as Other Child Maltreatment

Thurston’s findings suggest that whether or not the women had other risk factors for heart problems, their history of childhood sexual abuse remained a strong potential contributor to their atherosclerosis.

Thurston plans to continue the work by studying women who have had heart events – in this study, only women without heart disease were included – to see if the correlation still holds. She also wants to better understand how the early abuse affects women in later life. There is some evidence that traumatic experiences may change the stress response system in lasting, and possibly permanent ways.

While none of the women had signs of heart disease at the start of the study, Thurston says the results hint that physicians should be considering childhood experience, particularly traumatic ones, as part of comprehensive heart care for women. If the results are validated, then they might lead to ways of intervening with stress reduction or other psychological techniques to hopefully slow down the hardening of the arteries and lower their risk of heart disease.

TIME United Kingdom

UK Police Arrest 660 Suspected Pedophiles

Arrests follow a string of pedophilia scandals in the country

UK police have arrested 660 alleged pedophiles following a six-month investigation. The suspects include doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said Wednesday that the operation occurred across the UK and involved 45 separate police forces. The agency estimated that over 400 children have been protected as a result.

The operation, which was kept secret until the arrests were made, involved targeting those accessing pedophilic images online. A total of 39 of those arrested were registered sex offenders though the vast majority was unknown to the police. Those who have been charged are accused of a range of crimes, from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual abuse.

“This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result,” said the agency’s deputy director general, Phil Gormley.

This spate of arrests follows a string of pedophilia scandals that have dogged the UK. Last week, allegations were made that politicians in the 1980s repeatedly abused vulnerable children.

This news was given greater credence amidst the UK’s ongoing police inquiry, Operation Yewtree, into the abuse of children by high-profile celebrities. Many of the alleged assaults happened decades ago.

TIME

X-Men Director Teases Sneak Peek of X-Men: Apocalypse

James McAvoy portrays Charles Xavier in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." The “X-Men” franchise will get another boost in 2016 with the release of “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
James McAvoy portrays Charles Xavier in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." The “X-Men” franchise will get another boost in 2016 with the release of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Murray Close—AP

The director of 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' has posted an Instagram photo of the beginning of the next 'X-Men' film

Get excited, Marvel fans: The director of X-Men: Days of Future Past posted a photo of the treatment for X-Men: Apocalypse, the next film in the franchise.

Director Bryan Singer created a new Instagram account Tuesday to which he immediately posted the image. Singer’s picture shows part of the first page of the treatment for X-Men: Apocalypse. The treatment, which can be thought of as a detailed synopsis, seems to continue where the post-credits scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past left off.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt. We’re immediately confronted with the four horsemen — Pestilence, War, Death and Famine — who are the servants of Apocalypse, the film’s main villain.

The photo has done more than set fans’ pulses racing. The image, and a photo Singer tweeted last week of him and the film’s co-writers, indicate that the director will be working on the film, something which some observers doubted after allegations of sexual abuse emerged against the director in April and May.

TIME Criminal Justice

West Virginia School Sued for Ignoring Sex Abuse Claims

The students accused of sexually abusing other classmates are related to employees of the school district

Local school officials ignored allegations that two middle school boys sexually abused their female classmates at Burch Middle School, West Virginia’s attorney general says. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says that officials at the school in the city of Delbarton even interfered in a police investigation into the incidents and punished the girls who made the allegations.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday asks the defendants — who include the Mingo County School Board, the superintendent, the school principal, the guidance counselor, a coach at the school, the boys and their parents — to prevent further abuse and not to interfere with state police investigations, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit says girls complained to a guidance counselor of non-consensual groping and molestations “oftentimes forcible in nature.” The two girls, who were 13 at the time of the incident, named the same two boys — who are both related to Mingo County school system employees —in their complaints. The alleged gropings took place on a school bus, in the computer lab and on a field trip during the 2012-2013 school year. At one point, two of the boys surrounded one girl on a school bus seat and sexually abused her, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit goes on to say that when the allegations were reported, the principal misled the girls’ parents to believe they had called the police but did not, and the coach said the girls could not prove anything because there were no eye witnesses. The principal later told a state trooper that he could not take statements from students because he was “disrupting the learning environment.”

The principal declined to comment on the allegations to the Associated Press.

[AP]

TIME Vatican

Vatican Reveals It Punished Thousands of Priests For Sex Abuse

SWITZERLAND-UN-VATICAN-CHURCH-CHILD-SEX-ABUSE-RIGHTS
The Vatican's Ambassador to the United Nations Monsignor Silvano Tomasi (R) gestures next to Vatican Secretary of State Professor Vincenzo Buonomo (L) during a hearing before the United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture on May 5, 2014, in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI—AFP/Getty Images

The Vatican's ambassador released comprehensive figures during the second day of grilling by a U.N. committee that monitors an international convention against torture, claiming to have defrocked hundreds and sanctioned thousands of priests in the last decade

The Vatican on Tuesday revealed a rare, year-by-year tally of how many priests it had disciplined over the past decade for alleged sexual abuses against children.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a Vatican ambassador, revealed to a United Nations committee that the Vatican had defrocked a total of 848 priests and sanctioned another 2,572 over the last 10 years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A U.N. committee charged with monitoring an international convention against torture has been investigating whether the Vatican’s senior officials are liable for the abuses, and whether it constitutes torture under the terms of the treaty.

[WSJ]

TIME abuse

Study: Teenage Jocks More Likely to Abuse Girlfriends

Oceanside Pirates junior varsity team line up against the Mira Mesa Junior varsity team as they play high school football in Oceanside
A new study links sports aggression and relationship abuse among high school students © Mike Blake – Reuters

Those playing both basketball and football are most likely to abuse their partners, a new study finds

A new study claims to show a link between sporting aggression and relationship abuse, finding that the likelihood of a teenage boy ill-treating his girlfriend is about twice as high if he plays football or basketball.

Inspired by the apparent correlation between violent sports and dating abuse among college athletes, the study examined data from 1,648 male students in relationships from 16 high schools in California.

Those playing sports such as football and basketball were more likely to have abused their partners either physically, sexually or psychologically than those who didn’t play sports, or those who were wrestlers, swimmers or tennis players.

Teens who only played football were about 50% more likely to have abused their partner, according to study, which was conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

[Reuters]

 

 

TIME E.U.

Study: One Third Of E.U. Women Suffer Abuse

One in ten claims to have experienced sexual violence by age of 15

A comprehensive and damning report published Wednesday revealed the “extensive” levels of abuse faced by women across the 28-member states in the European Union.

Published by the E.U. Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the survey of 42,000 women aged 18-74 across the E.U. found a third of women in Europe (62 million) had suffered a physical or sexual assault. 1 in 10 women also said they had experienced some kind of sexual violence from an adult by the time they reached 15. Another 1 in 10 had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

“The enormity of the problem is proof that violence against women does not just impact a few women only – it impacts on society every day,” said FRA director Morten Kjaerum. Worryingly the report found that some two thirds of women did not report the most serious incident of partner violence to the police or any other organisation.

When the data was broken down by country, the findings showed that Denmark and Finland were among the countries with higher rates of women indicating they had experienced physical and/or sexual abuse (52 and 47 percent respectively). Women in Poland reported the lowest levels of abuse. The report authors suggested this might be because increased gender equality could lead to more disclosures of violence.

TIME feminism

Woody Allen, Feminism, and ‘Believing the Survivor’

2012 Los Angeles Film Festival - "To Rome With Love" - Arrivals
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images

How a new feminist dogma asks us to throw reason to the wind — harming both men and women

The revived sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen have become the newest gender-war battlefield. Renewed claims by Allen’s 28-year-old adopted daughter, the former Dylan Farrow, that he sexually assaulted her more than two decades ago have generated an intense debate about the facts and the issues. Yet some voices, all from the feminist camp, are saying that there shouldn’t be a debate at all: We must “believe the survivor” and condemn the perpetrator. While allegations of child abuse certainly should be taken seriously, the assumption that such an accusation equals guilt is repugnant and dangerous — not only to innocent men but to women too.

Writing for The Nation, Jessica Valenti argues that if we believe Dylan Farrow’s account leaves any room for doubt, it’s because “patriarchy pushes us to put aside our good judgment.” After all, says Valenti, we know that sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive and vastly underreported, and victims come forward at great personal cost.

(MORE: Dylan Farrow Fires Back At Woody Allen’s Denial Of Sex Abuse Claims)

What about the fact that the charges were originally made during a bitter breakup and custody dispute between Allen and Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow? If you think this is relevant, the feminists say, you are embracing the misogynist myth of vengeful women using sexual abuse allegations as a weapon. In fact, asserts Zoe Zolbrod in Salon.com, “research shows that it is not more common for accusations made during custody battles to be proved false than it is for any other sex abuse accusation,” with only 1% to 6% of abuse charges found to be maliciously fabricated; what’s more, writes Zolbrod, custody-related false accusations usually come from fathers, not mothers.

But these claims are contradicted by a major Canadian study that tracked more than 11,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in Canada in 2003. While reports of sexual abuse made during custody or visitation conflicts are fairly rare — the study identified 69 such cases — they are also quite likely to prove unfounded. Child protection workers substantiated just 11% of these charges, while 34% were “suspected” to be valid but not fully confirmed; 36% were classified as unsubstantiated but made “in good faith,” and 18% as deliberately false. By contrast, the rate of false allegations for all child sexual abuse reports was 5%. (The claim that malicious accusations in custody disputes come mostly from fathers is based on an earlier phase of the same study. However, fathers’ false reports were overwhelmingly of child neglect and sometimes physical abuse; false charges of sexual molestation were more likely to come from mothers.)

(MORE: Dylan Farrow’s Child-Abuse Accusations: What We’ve Learned About When and How Children Should Confront Abuse)

In a 2007 U.S. survey of child welfare workers, 80% reported having seen cases in which a child was coached to make false allegations of sexual abuse, usually by the mother in a custody dispute; more than a fourth said they had encountered 20 or more such cases. Notably, as author Kathleen Faller pointed out, these estimates came from professionals inclined to be supportive of children; it is also worth noting that three-quarters of them were women.

Research cannot tell us anything about the specific allegations made against Allen in 1992. But it does show that, statistically, there is at least a 50-50 chance that sexual abuse charges brought in such circumstances are groundless — either deliberately false, or sincere but mistaken. And the lines between malice and mistake are not always clear. When you’re ready to think the worst of your ex, innocent parent-child contact — playful roughhousing, cuddling, helping a child get dressed — can seem suspect.

In the Allen/Farrow case, this is magnified by Farrow’s discovery that Allen, her 56-year-old longtime partner, was sexually involved with her adopted daughter. While Soon Yi Previn was an adult (her birthdate is unknown but her age was in the range of 18 to 20) and Allen had never acted as her stepfather, even his defenders generally agree that the affair was sordid and grossly inappropriate. While this does not make Allen a pedophile, Farrow may well have seen the relationship as quasi-incestuous child abuse, coloring her perception of his conduct toward Dylan.

(MORE: When Bystanders Are as Bad as Abusers)

Does Dylan Farrow’s present-day insistence that she was abused by Allen prove that it’s true? Not necessarily; children can be coaxed into false memories, especially when they want to please an adult, and such memories can last. Some of the now-grown “victims” in the day-care sexual abuse scandals of the 1980s, now widely recognized as hoaxes, still believe that they were abused and claim to have painful flashbacks. Of the dozens of children who testified in the notorious McMartin Preschool case in California, only one has recanted.

The claims and counterclaims over Dylan Farrow’s accusations and Woody Allen’s defense will keep flying, with partisans lining up on both sides. I have, for the record, no strong investment in Allen’s innocence; I am not a major fan of his work or his person, both of which display an obnoxious streak of narcissism. My concern is with the attacks on the presumption of innocence — perhaps “only” in the court of public opinion, but with likely spillover into the legal system — and the state of our conversation on gender.

It is appalling when a feminist blogger derides talk of the presumption of innocence and calls for hearing both sides as ways to “undermine the victim”; when Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times columnist who published Dylan Farrow’s letter on his blog, gets attacked for merely conceding that we cannot be sure of Allen’s guilt; when people who raise questions about the evidence are bashed as rape apologists and misogynists. It is particularly appalling when Valenti, hailed as a leading feminist voice of her generation, asserts that we must “start to believe victims en masse.”

Such arguments are ostensibly rooted in female solidarity. Indeed, Valenti seems so unconcerned with male lives that she even ignores the molestation of boys — who reportedly account for up to 40% of sexually abused children — and mentions only girls’ victimization. This brings to mind the words of British philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards in the 1980 book, The Skeptical Feminist: “No feminist whose concern for women stems from a concern for justice in general can ever legitimately allow her only interest to be the advantage of women.”

Yet undermining the presumption of innocence is not good for women, either. In the 1980s, the first wave of feminist zealotry on child sexual abuse — based on the idea that such abuse was a ubiquitous patriarchal atrocity and even a tacitly condoned method of training girls into submission — helped feed the day care sex-abuse scare and the rise of “recovered memories” of incest. Feminists, including recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Gloria Steinem, played a shameful role in promoting this frenzy. Then, too, the battle cry was, “Believe the victims.” And the real victims included many women.

(MORE: Is It Still O.K. to Have a Favorite Woody Allen Movie?)

Some were day care workers like Margaret Kelly Michaels, the New Jersey preschool teacher who spent five years in prison before being exonerated. Some were mothers and grandmothers like Shirley Souza, the Massachusetts woman convicted of child molestation after her grown daughter underwent recovered-memory therapy and two granddaughters were heavily pressured to “disclose” abuse. Some were patients like Patricia Burgus, who sought treatment for depression and was brainwashed into believing she was raised in a satanic cult, repeatedly raped, and forced to participate in cannibalism.

Feminist dissenters who questioned the panic, such as psychologist Carol Tavris and journalist Debbie Nathan, were accused of colluding in anti-woman backlash. In 1993, after the left-wing magazine Mother Jones ran a critical story on recovered memory, Harvard psychiatrist Judith Herman accused the magazine of promoting “the myth that hysterical women fantasize about sexual abuse” and siding with men’s attempts to silence and discredit women who speak out about sexual violence.

Today, few doubt that Mother Jones was right and Herman was wrong. Yet similar attacks continue on those who won’t toe the “Stand with Dylan” party line.

Perhaps we still haven’t learned the larger lesson. A movement that demands belief in one person’s accusations against another as a matter of faith, not fact, is not a movement for justice. It is a lynch mob waiting to happen.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @CathyYoung63.

TIME celebrities

Dylan Farrow on Woody Allen Allegations Backlash

Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow at Mia Farrow's apartment in New York City on May 2, 1989
Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow at Mia Farrow's apartment in New York City on May 2, 1989 Ron Galella—WireImage

Dylan Farrow responds to her brother Moses' accusation that she and their mother Mia are lying about Woody Allen molesting Dylan as a child

The Farrow-Allen family feud rages on as the children take sides in the ongoing debate over whether Woody Allen sexually abused Dylan Farrow as a child.

Dylan Farrow opened up to People on Thursday about the backlash she’s experienced since claiming her adoptive father, Woody Allen, sexually abused her. Dylan Farrow spoke out publicly for the first time in an open letter published in the New York Times on Feb. 1 about the sexual-abuse allegations her mother Mia Farrow made against Allen in 1993.

“It took all of my strength and all of my emotional fortitude to do what I did this week in the hope that it would put the truth out there,” Dylan Farrow, 28, told People. “I don’t have money or publicists or limos or fancy apartments in Manhattan. All I have is the truth and that is all I put out there.”

Dylan Farrow’s brother Moses Farrow responded to the letter earlier this week by saying his sister was never abused and that Mia Farrow, not Woody Allen, hurt the children. “My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister,” Moses Farrow, 36, told People. “And I hated him for her for years. I see now that this was a vengeful way to pay him back for falling in love with Soon-Yi.”

“Of course Woody did not molest my sister,” he added.

“My brother has broken my heart,” Dylan Farrow told People after learning what her brother had said. “Moses divorced himself from the family a long time ago. I always missed him. I loved him and I kept him in my thoughts. These lies — this betrayal — is unfathomable to me coming from a brother I loved and cherished and grew up with.”

Other critics have accused Dylan Farrow of writing the Times letter to support her mother, who made headlines in October when a Vanity Fair story revisited her claims that Allen sexually abused their daughter 20 years earlier and revealed that her son with Allen, Ronan Farrow, might be Frank Sinatra’s biological child. Both Ronan and Mia Farrow have criticized Allen on social media. Some writers have also accused Dylan Farrow of strategically attacking Allen during awards season to sabotage the odds of his latest film, Blue Jasmine.

Dylan Farrow explained that she decided to write the letter after Allen won the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes. Her only intention in writing the letter, she said, was “to put the truth on paper from a voice that was not able to speak before.”

“People are saying that I am not actually remembering what I remember,” she said in the interview. “People are saying that my ‘evil mother’ brainwashed me because they refuse to believe that my sick, evil father would ever molest me, because we live in this society where victim blaming and inexcusable behavior — this taboo against shaming the famous at the expense of their victims — is accepted and excused.”

Allen, 78, denies that he ever molested Dylan Farrow and has reportedly requested that the Times publish a response he has written to the accusations. The director maintained during criminal investigations and custody battles for the children in 1992 and 1993 that Mia Farrow had coached Dylan Farrow to tell investigators a made-up story about the abuse. Allen was never charged.

[People]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser