Child Abuse Conference

The fourth annual conference on child abuse education, prevention and investigation was held last Wednesday and Thursday, April 21 and 22 in Spratt Hall. The conference is hosted and sponsored by several departments on campus including the Regional Law Enforcement Academy, the Western Institute, the Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Social Work, the Department of Nursing, the Department of Education, and the Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center. Professor of legal studies, David Tushaus, says the sessions were also sponsored by the JAYC [Just Ask Yourself to Care] foundation, which helps children and families in need of healing after experiencing trauma. Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted at 11 years old and wasn’t reunited with her family until 18 years later, started the foundation as a way of providing support, protection and healing to those in need. “It is helpful for people in the profession, but also for people who have suffered similar types of abuse and neglect issues, to be able to hear about [Dugard’s] story,” Tushaus said. The main goal of the conference was to educate the general public on the issue of child abuse and neglect. Kip Wilson, associate professor of criminal justice, says there were several sessions that were open for all students, faculty and community members. “They’re designed to have some for educators, some are for lawyers, some are for social workers, some are for law enforcement and some are more for the medical side of things,” Wilson said. Tushaus explains why the sessions are important to the criminal justice department. “A big part of the investigation part of the conference has to do with law enforcement, and law enforcement’s role in investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Tushaus said. The conferences are put on each year to educate Missouri Western students, staff and the general public on the importance of the investigations of child abuse and neglect. “We recognize that it’s important that these cases be investigated properly both to preserve evidence and to avoid re-victimizing the victim,” Tushaus said. The sessions are also a way of shedding light on a subject that Psychology Professor Teddi Deka says is prevalent in all societies. “It’s really important that other people that are involved with children are aware of recognizing child abuse or child neglect,” Deka said. Some resources community members can provide to a child who is suffering from neglect are making sure the child has food, getting resources to the parents and providing education for parents and their children. Deka stresses the importance of parenting education classes in high schools and for the general public as a helpful step in the prevention of abuse and neglect in children. “I think parent education is the number one prevention,” Deka said. “We need to educate parents about how to be better parents.” Wilson explains that another prevention of child abuse involves being more aware of the subject and taking the steps in reporting cases and providing adequate investigations. “Part of it is children are almost treated as objects or possessions, and so we investigate them completely different than we would some other crime,” Wilson said. He gives the example of when people notice a dog left on a chain without food or water and calls it in, the criminal goes to jail, whereas when children are in the situation of being neglected or abused they may not even have an investigation. At the keynote presentation, which took place on Wednesday and was free to the public, the statistics of child abuse cases not being reported were shown. In 1999, 3.244 million children reported abuse or neglect, and only 28-33 percent of these cases will get investigated. “I think it’s important to report it,” Wilson said. “If [the community] feel that something is wrong then they try to make sure that somebody looks at it, or if they can’t intervene themselves, make sure that somebody else will intervene.”

Albright speaks on conflict in the Middle East

Western welcomed Jimmy Albright as the Spring 2016 Eggs and Issues keynote speaker, Tuesday, March 29. Since 1988, Western has brought in a variety of keynote speakers to lead communal forums on current topics. Albright presented “Origins of Conflict in the Middle East,” entailing a brief history of the region, as well as overview of his archaeological discoveries, giving the audience insight into the extreme cultural divide of the area along the way. Albright has been an adjunct instructor of archaeology at Western for over 25 years. He has extensively studied the Middle East and has visited Israel over 45 times for archaeological excavations, with plans to revisit this May. “When I first went to Israel I was gone for a month; my wife and I went to Europe and the Middle East," Albright said. "I went primarily because I was pasturing and I wanted to know about Israel and these lands that were mentioned in the Bible. What grew out of that were my travels in Israel, Greece, Italy, Egypt; I saw archaeology and I fell in love with it. So I came back to the US, went back to graduate school. When I came here, I had two different roles. I was at a church, but they were willing to let me teach here part-time as well.”  Missouri Western Magazine Editor and special event coordinator Diane Holtz feels the event strengthens the university’s relationship with the community. “One thing we really like about this event is it brings a lot of people from the community onto campus. We think it's important to provide a forum where people can learn about all kinds of interesting topics and where the community can feel welcome to come on campus and learn as well,” Holtz said.     The Eggs and Issues lecture series will return in the fall of 2016.

Cruz and Clinton Win Iowa Caucus

Missouri’s presidential primary may not be until March, but its neighbor to the north voted Monday night and the votes are in. In the 2016 Presidential Iowa Caucus, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won his party’s caucus with 28% of the vote. Finishing in second and third place for the Republicans was Donald Trump with 24% of the vote and Sen. Marco Rubio with 23%. Meanwhile, Democratic voters supported Hillary Clinton by a very narrow margin in a close race over Sen. Bernie Sanders, ending with essentially a tie. Clinton received 49.9% over Sanders 49.6%, according to the Associated Press. In fact, it was so close, the Iowa Democratic Party released a press release the following day to confirm the results. “The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history,” the Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire said. “Hillary Clinton has been awarded 700.59 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 696.82 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.61 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents.” As mentioned, former Maryland Gov. O’Malley received 0.6% of the vote and suspended his presidential campaign Monday night. Assistant Professor of political science Dr. Jonathan Euchner is a native Iowan and participated in Monday’s caucus and explained the process. Essentially, the caucus is a neighborhood meeting for the two national parties, Euchner said. Once the meeting starts, the caucus-goers split into preference groups for presidential candidates where the goal to form a “viable” group. The total amount of people attending the caucus determine the percentage of supporters needed for a candidate to be considered viable. “[The caucus starts and] Everyone starts walking around and it’s kind of like a party,” Euchner said. “Eventually the room is divided up into however many candidates for president there are out there, who have supporters at the caucus site... Then, where it becomes really interesting is if you’re in a group that may be a couple people short, say you need 15 people and you only got 12, so then what happens is people start walking around to the groups with a lot of people and tell them ‘c’mon, join us’... People start kind of horse-trading.” The preference groups are eventually decided and then report back for a final tally. Delegates to the two parties’ national convention are then assigned to each candidate based on the percentage of supporters at each caucus site. While Iowa casts the first votes for presidential candidates this election cycle, Euchner said that this election has a long ways to get yet. “I think, heading into the Democratic race, it’s a long slog,” Euchner said. “I think Sanders could be in it for the long haul, and Clinton is not going anywhere... With the Republicans, boy, I think we need to see what New Hampshire does before we know for sure. New Hampshire may eliminate some establishment candidates, like [Jeb] Bush and Chris Christie.” With all the attention on Iowa now shifting to New Hampshire where the country’s first primary will be held, it appears like Missouri will largely be overlooked during this presidential election year. This, however, was not always the case, Euchner said. “The biggest reason Missouri is increasingly irrelevant is that it used to be a really competitive, ‘bellwether’ state,” Euchner said. “Missouri used to always pick the winner of presidential elections... But in recent years, Missouri has been becoming, for a presidential voting, a pretty safe Republican state, which means that Democrats generally ignore Missouri.” There is still a ways to go before the Missouri primary. The next primary is in New Hampshire on Feb. 9. Super Tuesday, when the most delegates are up for grabs across the nation, is on March 1. The Missouri presidential primaries, meanwhile, are on March 15.

AIDS activist discusses importance of finding cure

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have been around for many years without a probable cure. HIV is a particular virus that weakens the immune system by destroying cells that fight infection--T-cells and CD4 cells. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome occurs when your immune system becomes deficient. According to AIDS.gov, “AIDS is syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms.” Brryan Jackson, AIDS activist and survivor, began his presentation on Dec. 1 with a list of HIV Fun (Not Really) Facts. In Jackson’s slideshow, it was stated that 35 million people are infected with the virus, and around 3.3 million of these patients are under the age of 15. The only way to know if a person has the virus is to take a 20 minute, painless HIV test. And although the virus is not airborne, some of the population do not even know that they have it. When most people think of a face for AIDS, they picture drug users, prostitutes, homosexual couples, etc. However, Jackson made it very clear that each and every human being could be considered a face of AIDS. There are no visible symptoms of AIDS. The destruction happens inside a person’s body, which is why people do not die from AIDS itself, but from related medical complications, including pneumonia. Jackson was admitted into the hospital when he was eleven months old for a series of asthma attacks. Just before being released from the hospital, he received a surprise visit from his father, who had never been a significant part of his life. Brryan’s mother, exhausted and thirsty, left the father alone with his son to get a drink. When she returned, she found her baby boy crying hysterically. Jackson’s father came to the hospital that day with a “grand plan.” He brought his lab coat along with him for the purpose of killing his son so that he could avoid paying child support. Brryan’s father injected him with HIV-tainted, incompatible blood before disappearing. Soon, Jackson became bloated and feverish. He was tested for numerous diseases, when finally, the doctors made the decision to test Jackson for HIV. The test came back positive, as Jackson’s T-cell count was at zero. Jackson’s family was told that he had five months to live. Yet he is now in his 20s, his virus is sustained, and he has been given a chance at life. Jackson spoke at Western to tell his story, but also to raise awareness for the incurable, yet preventable virus. Dana Heldenbrand, administrative coordinator for student development, said that Jackson’s story was brought to her attention by Mitzi Teliczan of the St. Joseph Health Department. The Center for Student Involvement was immediately interested in Jackson’s story, and thought that it would fit in well with the Standing in Your Truth series. Jackson told the audience about his childhood experiences. He was not allowed to go to school for a period of time due to being HIV positive. Once Jackson was able to attend public school, he was assigned a specific bathroom and was unable to use the water fountains, participate in after school activities, or play sports. Jackson said that he was “treated like a monster,” yet he realized that sharing his story with the world was more joyful than anything else he could have done. Throughout the presentation, Jackson focused on how he did not want to be treated as a victim. What he wanted do was find a solution to his problem and figure out how to overcome it. “I wish I could take away everyone’s pain,” Jackson said. “But where there’s pain, there’s gonna be gain.” In Dec. 1998, Jackson’s father was convicted of first-degree assault and was given life in prison with possibility of parole. Jackson stated that although he has not seen his father since that day in the hospital, and has no intentions of doing so, he chose to forgive him. “I’m not going to let what he’s done define me,” Jackson said. Heldenbrand said that Jackson did a wonderful job with his presentation. She also said that his story was "powerful.” When asked how Jackson was chosen for the presentation, Heldenbrand had a strong answer. “Who better than someone who has really embraced his past and is standing in his truth?” she said. Even though Jackson’s HIV is currently undetectable, an audience member asked if he expected to come across any limitations in his life. “I think I’m limitless,” Jackson said.

LGBT & Faith panel

For as long as many can remember, questions about homosexuality and its relation to the Bible have surfaced. On Oct. 29, three local church affiliates joined a crowd of questioning faces to discuss how LGBT and faith collide. The panel consisted of Steven Andrews, pastor at Parkville Presbyterian Church; Brian Kirk, pastor at First Christian Church of St. Joseph; and Suzanne Shay, children’s minister at First Christian Church. The panel allowed audience members to ask questions regarding LGBT and faith, which were answered through the panel members’ knowledge and notes taken from the Bible. According to the panel, there are only around 6 or 7 passages in the Bible that discuss anything that could be related to homosexuality. There are passages within the Bible that talk about same gender sexual activity, however, homosexuality is never directly mentioned in the Bible. This could be because of the time period, in which the people did not know about sexuality. Sexual orientation, in biblical times, meant nothing. Instead, the Bible talks a lot about a type of relationship that is not loving and affirming. In the Bible, sex was for the purpose of procreation--not joy. This being said, many could argue that homosexuality is wrong strictly because it stops procreation. Kirk argued that two people can still compliment one another and blossom in a relationship without ever having children. “It’s not only about biology, it is about feelings and relationships,” Shay said. There is also not a specific reference to bisexuality in the Bible. Eunuchs, which are described as men without part of the male anatomy, are mentioned as people who defied traditional gender expectations. “Eunuchs are talked about as a modern day stereotype of gay men,” Andrews said. During the panel, it was also discussed how the Bible’s focus around sexual acts of men and not women faltered toward sexism. Andrews stated that a lot of the negative images we perceive about women come from scripture. In biblical times, women were not treated as they are today. Instead, they were treated as property. The women were meant to cook, clean, and be wives in the simplest sense of the word. “The biblical understanding of marriage is not a relationship,” Shay said. “It’s proprietary.” There were people among the audience who were supportive of the idea of homosexuality and its relation with faith, as well as audience members who were unsure of how homosexuality was considered “okay.” The panel quickly turned into a heated discussion about homosexuality being unnatural. Reliable information was given from both sides of the discussion, revealing what is both said and unsaid about homosexuality in the Bible. Clyde Clark, attendee of the panel, and also a member of First Christian Church, spoke several times during the discussion. “Homosexuality happens in multiple species,” Clark said. “And those species aren’t ruled by a Bible.” Clark also admitted his understanding that there was a very divided point of view about homosexuality during the panel. He also admitted that it was expected. Kirk discussed his personal beliefs about homosexuality. He discussed how the Bible talked about relationships as treating people with love and compassion, and trusting in the love of God. According to him, this concept does not mention a specific gender or sex. Kirk also shared about his relationship with his own partner, and how it was very loving--exactly how relationships are supposed to be. “Homosexuality is just another aspect of human sexuality,” Kirk said. Another topic discussed at the panel was the idea of Heaven and Hell, and the fate of homosexual persons. The panel quickly pointed out that Jesus’ focus was not about Heaven and Hell, but about the here and now. Overall, the panel brought up a discussion with many honest questions. Andrews, Kirk and Shay all agreed that a person’s views on homosexuality depends on their own interpretation of scripture. “In the Bible, you’re not going to get a lot of blatant answers for certainty,” Clark said. Clark also stated that the panel had reiterated everything he had searched for himself.