ModBlog News of the Week: August 26th, 2011

It’s time again for another news round-up, and I wanted to start off by thanking everyone who sent in news stories this week.  My usual searches didn’t yield too many results, but thanks to you guys, there are some great stories this week.  Remember, you can always send me a link through e-mail or by clicking this link.

Today’s first story is one of tragedy and perseverance.  Lilly Manning is a young woman who spent most of her childhood in a living hell.  She spent years being brutally abused by her foster parents, all while child protective services did nothing to help.  Today Lilly is thankfully out of that environment, and is coming forward to talk about what happened, and what she’s doing now to help her move forward.  Just a heads up, the photos in the galleries include a lot of scars from cuts, which may be triggering to some people.

Lilly Manning was 15 when she escaped from a cramped closet in south Sacramento, after being stabbed and beaten and shoved into the darkness.  This time, she said, she knew she would have to save herself.

Four different agencies visited the family at least 11 times on reports of suspected abuse or neglect in a five-year period but did not move to protect her or her siblings, according to confidential records obtained by The Bee.  “They came, they looked, they left,” said Lilly, now 19, reflecting on the parade of visitors from law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the schools, some of whom she had secretly called.  “We just gave up.”

Today, Lilly Manning lives with more than 100 scars etching her 5-foot-3 body, physical reminders of the hammer attacks, beatings, burns and strikes to the head with a 2-by-4 and a padlock swinging from a cord.  By the time Lilly escaped from the 20-by-26-inch closet in October 2007, her body was so ravaged by torture and abuse that a seasoned sheriff’s detective described it with a single word:  “Horror.”

Clues to that horror, and how they were missed by authorities, are sprinkled throughout the files of multiple agencies interacting with the troubled family.

The records reveal:

• Sacramento County CPS fielded seven emergency referrals regarding the family between 2002 and 2006. The agency determined all the allegations to be “unfounded” or “inconclusive” – until Lilly’s escape, when doctors detailed the head-to-toe physical scars and injuries.

• A Sacramento police officer observed scars on Lilly as far back as 2003, when she was 11, but CPS did not follow up on the officer’s referral. The county Sheriff’s Department responded to two 911 calls alleging abuse but – met with denials and discrepancies – closed the cases.

• A teacher at Hiram Johnson High School, noting scratches on Lilly’s face and arms, referred her to the school nurse in November 2006. The nurse and another school worker scheduled a home visit and were told by Manning-Horvath that her daughter, then 14, was scratched by the dog. Describing the home as “immaculate,” the school’s visitors did not file a formal report.

• A CPS worker didn’t believe the allegation of a “locked closet” because all the home’s closets had sliding double doors except one, which had no lock. Detectives would later find that Lilly’s dungeon was secured with a pole under the doorknob or a brace across the door.

The one agency that responded effectively to the distress signals was Diogenes Youth Services, a 24-hour crisis center for homeless and runaway teens. After Lilly’s escape on Oct. 31, 2007, she said, she hid in a backyard shed but called CPS from a nearby pay phone five days later.

Lilly said a CPS worker told her “there’s nothing we can do” and gave her the Diogenes number. A volunteer at Diogenes picked her up near Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard and took the girl to a safe house.

The secrets came tumbling out.  “We did exactly what we were supposed to do, which pleased me to the highest,” said Diogenes executive director Mike Martin.  “We’ve handled a lot of difficult situations, but by far, this girl was in the worst shape we’ve ever seen.”  Authorities swept in, and the rest of the children were taken into protective custody in the early morning hours of Nov. 6, 2007.  The children would never go home again.

Lilly is leaving Sacramento this week to move to New York state to live with her 22-year-old sister, Natasha, who is in the Army. She plans to help care for Natasha’s 2-year-old daughter, and possibly enroll in online classes.  She said she still wants an explanation for how she came to get her 100 scars.  Last week, as a parting gift to herself, Lilly had a Sacramento tattoo shop finish the poem “Invictus” on her back.

Prosecutor Ho had framed the poem by William Ernest Henley and had given it to Lilly. It begins:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

There’s a lot more to the story, but the key thing is that Lilly is free from her adoptive parents who are now in prison.

There are a couple more stories up ahead, so keep on reading to see the rest.

In England a trend is being noticed by National Health Services.  Doctors are now referring patients to plastic surgeons for what they’re calling “Designer Vaginas“.  The surgeons are upset because not only do they not want to perform the operations, but also a large number of the patients are under 18, some as young as 11.

GPs should not refer women who are well but worried for female genital cosmetic surgery on the NHS, say experts.  Specialists at a Central London teaching hospital say they received 30 such referrals, mainly from family doctors, over the past three years.  This included eight schoolgirls – one as young as 11 – the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reports.  Experts say doctors need clear guidance on how best to care for women who mistakenly believe they need surgery.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons says medics need to determine whether a problem exists or whether an alternative solution may be preferable, but offers no advice on how to judge the problem, say the researchers from University College London’s Women’s Health Institute.

They say it may be simpler to ban the procedure in the NHS altogether, leaving it to private practices. Some Primary Care Trusts do this.  And private provider Bupa says the procedure is purely cosmetic and does not offer financial cover for the procedure.  The NHS has no such restriction.

Dr Sarah Creighton and colleagues believe the future demand for so-called “designer vagina” operations or labial reductions is potentially infinite and is driven by society’s wider and growing desire for cosmetic surgery in general and changing expectations about what is a desirable appearance for women.  “It’s shocking, particularly because we are seeing girls who are really young. They are asking for surgery that is irreversible and we do not know what the long-term risks of the procedure might be.”  She said latest figures for England show about 2,000 of the procedures are paid for by the NHS each year.  “That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a massive boom industry in the private sector.”  For the study, they reviewed all 33 women referred to their clinic between 2007 and 2010 with requests for a labial reduction.

Upon examination, all of the women were deemed to have “normal” genitalia by the doctors. But three were offered surgery to address “a significant asymmetry”. The remaining 30 were refused any procedure.  All of the women were offered the options of sessions with a clinical psychologist to explore issues leading to their request for surgery.  Twelve of the women said they would be seeking a second opinion and would consider going private to get the surgery if they still could not get it on the NHS.

What you have to remember is that the NHS is the government run healthcare in the UK.  People can opt for additional private medical insurance on top of what they normally get.  I can see the reasoning behind the NHS not paying for cosmetic surgery, but to think that these women have some psychological issue because they wish to modify their bodies is a little extreme.  We’ve seen in North America what can happen to procedures that plastic surgeons refuse to do.  Modification artists will step up, placing themselves in a dangerous position, which could possibly lead to criminal charges against them.  It’s interesting to note that there’s no mention of male circumcision in the article.  Does NHS cover that?  It’s a procedure that’s strictly cosmetic, yet for some reason it isn’t frowned upon like labia reduction surgery is.

Over in Indonesia an airline is coming under fire for their hiring practices when it comes to flight attendants.

Applicants for cabin crew for Garuda Indonesia charged that they were asked to strip to their underwear and a male Indonesian doctor touched part of their breasts for implants. The airline’s office in Seoul said it is company policy for cabin crew to have no tattoos and breast implants.

Garuda spokesperson Pudjobroto denied local media reports that applicants stripped naked and their breasts were fondled. He said breast implants are health risks during a sharp drop of air pressure and the physical examination adhered to international standard and practice in the airline industry.

However, the Seoul-based Sexual Violence Relief Center called the practice unnecessary and intrusive.  A spokesman for South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air said the airline does not conduct such physical exams and called the Jakarta-based airline’s tests “bizarre.”  The breast implant check, according to the spokesman, suggests that passengers with breast implant should not fly either.

Finally, with the earthquake that rocked Virginia and the eastern seaboard this week a number of people got to experience the ground shaking for the first time.  One NYC resident went so far as to get a tattoo to commemorate it.

Customers of a Brooklyn tattoo shop are signing up to have “Survived the Quake” inked on their skin – even though the design was offered as a joke.  Getting the black logo will hurt more than Tuesday’s tremor, which did little more in New York than rattle some nerves.  In fact, tattoo shop owner Joe Khay was mocking all the amped-up angst about the quake when he made the design.  “My whole shop was swaying back and forth,” said Khay, who owns Citizen Ink Studios in Sheepshead Bay. “We thought we were hung over or something.

Jonathan Berg, 21, had it inscribed on his waist.  “It was just that people were freaking out,” said Berg, a Brenman’s Prime Meat Market employee who was sitting at home watching the YES Network when New York swayed.  “It was just a minor thing, and people were making it into a serious subject. I thought that was pretty hilarious,” said the Gerritsen Beach man, who has 14 other tattoos.  “I told my wife I’m going to get it, and she called me crazy,” Berg said.

I wonder if he’s going to get an Irene tattoo after this weekend.

All joking aside, all of us here at BME are watching the news closely, and we hope that everyone in the path of this hurricane is safe and secure and gets through it without a scratch.  There are a lot of BME folk in NYC, so if you can get online after the storm, just check in and let someone know you’re alright.

That’s it for this week’s news.  Again, stay safe this weekend, and we’ll see you back here Monday.

24 thoughts on “ModBlog News of the Week: August 26th, 2011

  1. Circumcision isn’t purely cosmetic. There are health benefits and reduced risk for some STD’s. I don’t know if there’s anything like that with the labia surgery. However, a quick google search shows that the NHS doesn’t cover circumcision unless for a few medical purposes. So…

  2. If you’re 11 and already thinking about a “prettier vagina” then your problem isn’t a lack of willing doctors. Unless there is something medically wrong with you it is entirely a “psychological issue” there’s nothing extreme about saying that.

    Theres also the matter of informed consent.

    “An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.”

    A child who wants genital cosmetic surgery needs a hug not a surgeon.

  3. @theawkwardkid:

    There’s no scientific evidence for any medical benefit to circumcision. There have been studies, but none of them correct for access to medical care. Those who get circumcised are, statistically, from more-affluent areas. Their improved health relates to better living conditions and more access to doctors, not circumcisions. An uncircumcised penis requires basic hygiene – nothing special. So does a circumcised penis, for that matter.

    It’s an elective body modification, and should not be performed without informed consent from the recipient.

  4. Since when was an asymmetric vulva a bad thing, or abnormal?
    Everyone thinking about this sort of surgery should watch “The Perfect Vagina”. If a partner doesn’t accept you because they were expecting a ‘porn pussy’, they’re not mature enough to be near anyone else’s genitals.

  5. Some folks like symmetry. Some folks like asymmetry. Some folks like variety.

    If it’s understood as a body modification, where someone is changing her body because she simply wants to, there’s no issue.

    The problem is when a woman believes (for whatever reason) that this is a medical problem that needs to be corrected, because something’s “wrong” with her.

    In some cases, the labia minor are large enough to cause discomfort or other problems. Short of that, though, it’s just a personal preference, and should be treated as such. If it’s a personal preference, it’s more open to rational discussion than if there’s something /wrong/. Of course you fix something that’s /wrong/, so thinking of labial size or asymmetry as a defect shuts down the ability to think rationally about the subject.

  6. Rob
    It may have escaped your notice, but the NHS is a) free at the point of need, and b) under severe financial constraints. We are already having to pay for essential healthcare, such as physiotherapy and mobility aids.

    Sorry, but in the light of this, I’m not going to lose any sleep over a girl getting all butthurt because she can’t get a ‘designer vagina’ for free.

  7. Wow, no one is going to comment on that heart wrenching first story? Good for you, Lilly. May your story be inspirational to anyone in such an awful position. Go forth and be wonderful.

  8. “think that these women have some psychological issue because they wish to modify their bodies is a little extreme.”

    Except most of them are not women – they’re children. Children shouldn’t hate their genitals to the point where they’re willing to have them cut up. Does that sound healthy to you? Seriously?

  9. @Tiamet: I actually acknowledged that :) What I wasn’t sure of was if NHS also covered circumcision.

    @Girl: When it comes to an 11 year old girl, I agree, but then again, at what age should we be able to make decisions about our bodies? That question has been around forever, and a lot of people have very different opinions when it comes to it.

  10. I get the impression the women involved are not just looking to modify their bodies for the sake of it. Wanting surgery because you believe your genitals to be defective in some way, especially when you are so young you probably have never seen more than your own, that is definitely a psychological issue. It’s bad enough feeling pressure to remove all the hair down there in case, god forbid, you look too “natural”.

  11. @DangerBitch: I don’t think there’s a comment I could add, which would be suitable for publication. The abusers will go to prison, but the CPS workers who set the whole thing up will probably not even be reprimanded, let along suffer anything commensurate with their behavior. It’s like a situation where some psycho tosses a child into a cage with vicious dogs, so you shoot the dogs and let the psycho walk. The vicious dogs certainly need to be dealt with, but there aren’t words strong enough to express the travesty of this situation, which is repeated so many, many thousands of times.

  12. Wow. It’s briefly mentioned in the article above, but did you notice the issue here is that it’s the general practitioners referring the women to the plastic surgeons? It’s not a case of “I want to modify my body because that’s what I like”, it’s “I believe so strongly that my labia aren’t pretty that I have to get a doctor to tell me they’re ugly too”. And this is just my personal belief, but no little girl should get any sort of cosmetic surgery until she’s done growing into her body, except for reconstructive purposes.

  13. Rob, I think you have taken the issue of women requesting unnecessary labial reductions completely out of context. This is not an issue of people being denied the right to “body modification” in the sense that they want to modify their bodies in their own personal way, this is a case of women feeling that they need to alter themselves to be acceptable *in the eyes of others*. It is an indication of the fact that women and girls today feel under pressure to conform to a very narrow idea of what is normal and acceptable, which in many ways is totally the opposite of body modification as we know it.

    As for the NHS, I realise that you have acknowledged the point that Tiamet made, but I don’t think you appreciate the reality of the situation! At a time when the health service is under threat and resources are more strained than ever, the suggestion that women are being denied the free cosmetic surgery they are entitled to is just ludicrous.

  14. on the subject of NHS – if a woman has a genuine problem with her genitals for e.g. excess skin on her labia that make keeping clean and sanitary an issue, then the NHS do consider it but there has to be a genuine and obvious “problem”, i don’t think any child of 11 should be worrying about what her genitals look like, she has time to “grow into” her genitals and the skin in that area. i do believe circumcisions are included on the NHS, again there has to be a genuine issue for them to be considered, though i think most men prefer to go private.

  15. wow, that first story is just another perfect example of how garbage government, law, and protective services are in this country. I would be sueing those agencies for missing all the warnings and allowing her to be mistreated for even more years.

    glad to hear she can finally be free.

  16. sorry for being the crude comment, but i like all vag thats healthy and clean, be it fat/skinny symmetrical/lopsided hairy/shaved whatever.

    an 11 year old should not have to worry about what her junk looks like, because shes still got a few years before someone aside from doctors should be seeing it and having an opinion on it anyway. unless theres some physical issue, then i would defiantly be suspect as to what caused her to think she needed surgery in the first place.

    as far as being circumcised goes, i am and im ok with it. but to me id prefer to be anyway. theres always going to be a debate about informed consent with that, and thats not my place. but if its for religious reasons its not the best reason (if that makes sense….)

  17. deadman – The reason an 11-year-old girl shouldn’t have to worry what her junk looks like isn’t because she’s “still got a few years” before someone else sees it, it’s because she should be cool with its appearance regardless of what anyone thinks.

  18. I read the article linked from the first story and cried the whole way through. Shame the US system is such that they didn’t figure out what was going on and didn’t stop it sooner, but thank the gods she’s out of there and making a new life for herself.

  19. I know when I lived in Miami a lot of women had their vagina’s altered. Mainly inner and outer labia. Models would have the inner labia trimmed so it did not stick out past the outer for pantie model shoots and for wearing their bikini’s and whatnot as well as not having a large outer labia that covered their inner labia. Those people didn’t want the outer to cover their inner they wanted a more flat appearance. When I was piercing I saw lots of different sizes and shapes of girl parts and I understand why some would want to alter theirs.
    I’ve always been a fan of inner labia and would never trim mine. I love that it sticks out past the outer labia and shows my piercings nicely.
    However, girls under 18 have not fully developed and should not be changing their genital appearance until they have matured enough to know if it’s seriously something that needs to be done… If a parent is looking at their childs vagina so much that they think it needs to be altered ( other than an extremely noticeable deformation) then the parents need to be looked at because they are sick and need help.

  20. I can see the reasoning for offering psychiatric assistance for women, and especially the young girls, who think there is something wrong with their labia. An 11 year old that has those thoughts, unless something is grossly misshapen, might very well have some issues that need professional counseling. I don’t think anyone was saying that there’s something wrong with modifying your bod, just that it was unnecessary and the government wasn’t paying for it. I know some women have labia that “get in the way” during intercourse and have them surgically altered and I think that would be fine, but there’s no reason for a child to go under the knife for something like that. The adults might be a little different story, but if there is no medical problem, I can’t see the government being required to pay for it.

  21. circumcision is strictly cosmetic? surprisingly ignorant for bme! i know a couple of people who needed a circumcision in their adult life to correct an overly restrictive foreskin, and yes they were covered on the NHS. And they would have rather have gone without the procedure. It certainly wasn’t because they liked the look of it.

  22. Wow, the first story is insane! Who does that to another person, especially when that person is someone you should be protecting and caring for!?

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