Sexual Assault


Michelle Knight, the longest-held captive in the Ohio hell house, was removed from the FBI’s missing persons’ database just 15 months after her disappearance, according to a new report.

Cleveland spokeswoman Maureen Harper claimed the cops did the right thing by taking Knight’s name off the list in November 2003, The Cleveland Plain-Dealerreported.

Harper said cops were unable to contact Michelle’s mother Barbara to verify her daughter was still missing.

However, the paper reports that decision conflicts with the department’s written policy, where an officer must confirm a missing person has been found and then contact the FBI within two hours before the name is removed.

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Knight was found more alive more than 10 years after her Aug. 23, 2002 disappearance, along with Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, after allegedly being kept as sex slaves by Ariel Castro in Cleveland. Knight, now 32, was reportedly pregnant several times but Castro allegedly beat her until she miscarried The Post previously reported.

Having Knight’s name in the National Crime Information Center, called by the FBI as the “lifeline of law enforcement,” would have been the only way law enforcement agencies and victims’ groups could have helped in the search, the newspaper reports.

Harper said cops continued to work Knight’s case, confirming with Barbara that her daughter was still missing through May 2003.

After that, cops were unable to reach the estranged mother by phone, with a detective noting Michelle’s case “will remain invalid until new leads develop.”

Missing adult advocate Kym Pasqualini said if Michelle’s mom had called them for help “we would have had to say no” without an NCIC number to go with Knight’s name.

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Knight is still in the hospital recovering from her ordeal.

Yesterday Knight’s twin brother recalled his shock at seeing her alive for the first time in more than a decade.

“When I saw her, she was white as a ghost,” Freddie Knight, 32, told The Post. “But she told me, ‘Come over here and give me a hug. It’s been ages!’ ”

“She was happy to see me. It was emotional. She even recognized me — even though it had been 11 years.”

Freddie, who is estranged from their mom, Barbara, was the first family member to see Michelle after her escape.

Michelle was raped as a teen, became pregnant and lost the baby to social services just before she vanished in 2002. She was impregnated in the attack and had a child, which she then lost to state custody.

“We didn’t talk about that bad stuff. She’s been through a lot, so she’s not ready to talk about that,” Freddie added.

“I’m glad he’s in jail,” he said of Castro.

“I wish he was dead. He should have a death sentence; all those miscarriages. It’s crazy.”

Additional reporting by Lorena Mongelli  (May 10, 2013)

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‘Daddy’ is a ‘monster’: Ariel Castro’s daughter blasts fiend after women freed from Ohio hell house

Even with her demonic father in all likelihood gone forever, Gregg lives with a living reminder of the troubles that have plagued her family — she takes care of sister Emily Castro’s 5-year-old daughter.

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The little girl was taken away from Emily after she slashed her then 11-month-old daughter’s throat in April of 2008.

Things were not always as dark as they are now for the Castro family, although sources told The Post Ariel Castro spent years delivering severe beatings to his late-wife Grimilda Figueroa.

Gregg recalling nothing out of the ordinary going on in her childhood home where Ariel Castro kidnapped and held captive three women for about a decade.

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However, the shocking revelations about her father have now put his peculiar habits in a whole new light for Gregg.

“All these weird thing I noticed over the years like how he kept his house locked down so tight in certain areas, how if we’d be out at my grandma’s having dinner he would disappear for an hour or so and then come back and there would be no explanation where he went, everything is making sense now, it’s all adding up,” Gregg said.

At the time, however, Gregg did not think her father’s behavior was anything beyond strange.

For example, one time when she went to visit her father she asked if she could go upstairs to see her childhood bedroom but Castro talked her out of it saying, “Oh, honey, there’s so much junk up there. You don’t want to go up there,” she said.

Gregg thought nothing of the incident when it happened, saying that she just thought of Castro as “being a pack rat.”

While the upstairs was off limits later in life, the basement was a complete no-go zone of the house, even when Gregg was a child, seeing as it was always locked with a “cheap Masterlock.”

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One time Gregg did pick the locks, however, and made her way downstairs, “I remember there being a fish tank down there which was odd because there was nobody down there to look at the fish.”

There were no signs that women were being held captive or that there might have been a small girl living in the house, according to Gregg.

That doesn’t mean that Gregg didn’t know the girl existed. About two months ago Castro showed Gregg a picture of a little girl on his phone but he insisted it was his girlfriend’s child by another man.

“I figured at the most he had an illegitimate child out there, you know, and I would find out eventually,” Gregg said.

Gregg now knows the origins of her 6-year-old sister and hopes that she and the other women held captive by her father can get the treatment that they need.

She also hopes that they will come to understand that her father’s actions are not a reflection of her and her family.

“We don’t have monster in our blood,” she said.

One neighbor says a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another heard pounding on the home’s doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

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Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbors say. Police also paid a visit to the house in 2004, but no one answered the door.

Now, after three women who vanished a decade ago were found captive Monday at the peeling, rundown house, Cleveland police are facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.

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City Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.

The three women were rescued after one of them kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor’s telephone to call 911.

“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

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Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, said Police Chief Michael McGrath.

Three brothers, ages 50 to 54, were arrested. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses just south of downtown Cleveland. No immediate charges were filed.

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A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry’s daughter was also found in the home, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. He would not say who the father was.

The women were reported by police to be in good health and were reunited with joyous family members but remained in seclusion.

“Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over,” said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI in Cleveland. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”

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He added: “Words can’t describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry.”

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or how they were hidden in the same neighborhood where they vanished. Investigators also would not say whether they were kept in restraints inside the house or sexually assaulted.

Four years ago, in another poverty-stricken part of town, Cleveland’s police force was heavily criticized following the discovery of 11 women’s bodies in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The families of Sowell’s victims accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and poor. For months, the stench of death hung over the house, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.

In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city’s handling of missing-person and sex crime investigations.

This time, two neighbors said they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.

Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police. “But they didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of the house in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. “They walked to side of the house and then left,” he said.

“Everyone in the neighborhood did what they had to do,” said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. “The police didn’t do their job.”

Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women’s disappearance, officials said.

In 2000, before the women vanished, Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Flask said.

In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Castro had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Flask said. No one answered the door, according to Flask. Ultimately, police determined there was no criminal intent on his part, he said.

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Castro, 52, was well known in the mainly Puerto Rican neighborhood. He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He gave children rides on his motorcycle and joined others at a candlelight vigil to remember two of the missing girls, neighbors said. They also said they would sometimes see him walking a little girl to a neighborhood playground.

Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina DeJesus, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro’s house but never noticed anything out of the ordinary, saying it had very little furniture and was filled with musical instruments.

“I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened,” he said.

Also arrested were Castro’s brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.

On Tuesday, a sign hung on a fence decorated with dozens of balloons outside the home of DeJesus’ parents read “Welcome Home Gina.” Her aunt Sandra Ruiz said her niece had an emotional reunion with family members.

“Those girls, those women are so strong,” Ruiz said. “What we’ve done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive.”

Many of the women’s loved ones and friends had held out hope of seeing them again,

For years, Berry’s mother kept her room exactly as it was, said Tina Miller, a cousin. When magazines addressed to Berry arrived, they were piled in the room alongside presents for birthdays and Christmases she missed. Berry’s mother died in 2006.

Just over a month ago, Miller attended a vigil marking the 10th anniversary of Berry’s disappearance.

Over the past decade or so, investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about her and DeJesus every few months, even in recent years. The disappearance of the two girls was profiled on TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” in 2005. Few leads ever came in about Knight.

Knight vanished at age 20 in 2002. Berry disappeared at 16 in 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at 14 on her way home from school.

Jessica Aponce, 24, said she walked home with DeJesus the day the teenager disappeared.

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“She called her mom and told her mom she was on her way home and that’s the last time I seen her,” Aponce said. “I just can’t wait to see her. I’m just so happy she’s alive. It’s been so many years that everybody thinking she was dead.”

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who were held captive by abductors at a young age, said they were elated by the women’s rescue.

“We need to have constant vigilance, constantly keep our eyes open and ears open because miracles do happen,” Smart said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

* AP,  May 7, 2013

A 17-year-old Canadian girl died Sunday, days after she attempted suicide following two years of what her mother described as near-constant bullying by classmates.

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In November 2011, when Rehtaeh Parsons was just 15, the Nova Scotia girl got extremely drunk after consuming vodka at a party. According to the girl’s mother, she was raped by four teenage boys, one of whom snapped a picture of Rehtaeh being assaulted, CBC News reported.

Ultimately, police said, there was not enough evidence to bring charges in connection with the girl's alleged rape. This image was taken from a Facebook page created by Parsons' mother called "Angel Rehtaeh." 

Ultimately, police said, there was not enough evidence to bring charges in connection with the girl’s alleged rape. This image was taken from a Facebook page created by Parsons’ mother called “Angel Rehtaeh.” 

That photo quickly circulated among Parsons’ classmates, sealing a fate as cruel as the crime her mother says she endured at the party. Many at her school branded her “a slut,” her mother said. 

“She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped,” Leah Parsons told the CBC.

An image of Rehtaeh Parsons and her mother posted on Facebook. Parsons hung herself after being gang-raped and repeatedly bullied, her family said. 

An image of Rehtaeh Parsons and her mother posted on Facebook. Parsons hung herself after being gang-raped and repeatedly bullied, her family said. 

Ashamed and distraught, Parsons let a week pass before she told her mother what had happened. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were eventually called, and although an investigation was launched into the incident, Parsons and her mother were told that there was not enough evidence to charge the boys.

“[The police] said that they would go talk to them and that [the boys] realized what they did was wrong, but [there was] nothing they could do, criminally,” Leah Parsons told the CBC radio program “Maritime Noon.” “It was a slap in the face.”

Meanwhile, at school and online, the taunting didn’t stop, and eventually the family moved from Cole Harbour to Halifax.

A photo of Parsons being assaulted spread among her classmates, prompting taunting, her family says. 

A photo of Parsons being assaulted spread among her classmates, prompting taunting, her family says. 

The trauma of what happened followed the girl, however, and Parsons was shadowed by what her mother called “depression and anger” over her being ostracized and bullied. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Parsons checked herself into the hospital in March.

Just days after being released, Parsons tried hanging herself in the bathroom of her home last Thursday.

“By the time I broke into the bathroom it was too late,” Leah Parsons wrote on a Facebook page she started in tribute to her daughter. “My beautiful girl had hung herself and was rushed to the hospital where she remained on life support until last night.”

In a final wrenching decision, Rehtaeh’s mother removed her from life support on Sunday.

“She made my life complete,” Leah Parsons wrote. “When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her.”

 

BY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, APRIL 9, 2013

A military jury on Friday convicted an instructor at Lackland Air Force Base of raping one female trainee and sexually assaulting several others, the first major case in a sex scandal that has rocked the Air Force’s basic training system.

The jury of two officers and five enlisted airmen found Staff Sgt. Luis Walker guilty on 28 counts, including adultery, violating regulations and committing sexual crimes against female trainees, most of whom reported to him at Lackland, in San Antonio, the Air Force’s lone basic training school.

He faces up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge when the trial moves into the sentencing phase.

At least 11 other instructors in the Air Force’s basic training system, nine from the same squadron, are under investigation in the widening case, which is the focus not only of a criminal probe but also a major policy review by a two-star general. At least 31 female recruits have been identified as possible victims.

One of those instructors has pleaded guilty; four others have been charged and are facing courts-martial. All have been removed from training duties, Air Force officials said. The lieutenant colonel in charge of some training units at Lackland has also been reassigned.

The sexual abuse scandal is among the worst to hit the military in over a decade. In 1996, dozens of women at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland accused male supervisors of rape, sexual assault and other offenses in 1996. A few years earlier, more than 80 women were assaulted during several days of drunken revelry at the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, a case that led to the resignation of the Navy secretary and two admirals.

Air Force officials said more instructors could be charged as a result of the current investigations, with recruits being encouraged to report episodes anonymously through a 24-hour tip line. The two-star general’s review has also been expanded to include three other Air Force training bases.

“We’re not satisfied that this one unit is all there is,” Maj. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, commander of the Second Air Force, which oversees basic training, said in an interview. “We want to assure ourselves through a disciplined approach that we’ve caught everything or everyone involved in this kind of behavior.”

The scandal has been deeply painful for the Air Force. Nine years ago, a survey by the Pentagon’s inspector general found that 12 percent of the women who graduated from the Air Force Academy that year said they had been victims of rape or attempted rape while at the school. The vast majority said they did not report the episodes to the authorities out of fear of being punished.

That appears to have been the situation in the current cases as well. The first assault allegations were reported by the acquaintance of a recruit and not the recruit herself. And when investigators began interviewing possible victims, almost all initially denied being assaulted.

With a staff of about 475 instructors, Lackland provides basic training to every Air Force recruit, about 35,000 a year. About one in five of those trainees are women, and about nine in ten of the instructors are men.

The rigorously hierarchical nature of the military makes it especially conducive to sexual abuse, critics say, and basic training is even more so, with instructors looming as intimidating, all-powerful figures to young recruits.

The Pentagon rejects such assertions. But amid growing criticism from advocacy groups and Congress, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta announced in April new steps to combat sexual assault, including having higher ranking officers handle sexual assault complaints, a change expected to lead to more prosecutions.

According to Pentagon data, there were 3,192 reports of sexual assault in the military in 2011, but only 240 went to trial, with 191 convictions. But the Defense Department acknowledges that the crime is vastly underreported, estimating the number of assaults may actually be closer to 19,000 a year.

During closing arguments in Sergeant Walker’s trial on Friday, the lead prosecutor, Maj. Patricia Gruen, portrayed him as a predator who first intimidated, then befriended recruits before assaulting them.

“When you take off the sheep’s outfit and the wolf is released on the flock, he looks for those that stand out, and pounces,” she told the jury.

But the defense, which called only one witness during the five-day trial, focused on the fact that none of the female recruits complained about Sergeant Walker to the authorities.

The lead defense lawyer, Joseph Esparza, also noted that the prosecution failed to produce DNA evidence or surveillance video, even though there were cameras in parts of the barracks.

“We don’t know what happened,” he said. “Everyone changed their stories based on when they were asked and who was asking.”

The trial was dominated by the graphic and often emotional testimony of female recruits. The New York Times does not typically identify possible victims of sexual assault.

One woman, identified as Airman 5, testified that Sergeant Walker tried to win her confidence by sympathizing with her after she had been upset by bad news from home. He later began sending suggestive texts to her cellphone before cornering her in a supply closet and forcing her to have sex with him.

The woman said she did not report the episode out of fear that Sergeant Walker would “recycle” her in punishment, meaning force her to redo basic training.

“I was scared, and miserable and hurt,” the woman testified. Her version was corroborated in court by a friend.

Another witness, identified as Airman 8, said Sergeant Walker called her into his office and pressured her to show her breasts. She mentioned the episode to other recruits, and word got back to Sergeant Walker.

She testified that he then called her back into his office and warned her: “If you had a problem with it, then you should have come to me, instead of running your mouth. Remember, I’m staff sergeant, you’re a trainee.”

“I went numb,” the woman testified. “I was scared. What if he punished me, or ruined my career?”

 

By  (NYT). Hollie O’Connor contributing from San Antonio. July 20, 2012

Nearly every woman I know can recall one or more instances in which she was sexually assaulted, harassed, threatened, inappropriately touched or even raped.


Yet few told anyone about it at the time, or reported it to the police.
I have clear memories of three such episodes from my childhood, one of which involved a man who owned a store in my neighborhood. Not knowing at age 11 anything about reproduction (in 1952, expectant teachers had to take leave when they “showed”), I was terrified that I could become pregnant from having been forced to touch his penis.

I had trouble sleeping, and I avoided the block where the store was. Yet, fearing that the assault was somehow my fault, I said nothing to my parents.
Experts on sexual assault and rape report that even today, despite improvements in early sex education and widespread publicity about sexual assaults, the overwhelming majority of both felony and misdemeanor cases never come to public or legal attention.

It is all too easy to see why. More often than not, women who bring charges of sexual assault are victims twice over, treated by the legal system and sometimes by the news media as lying until proved truthful.
“There is no other crime I can think of where the victim is more victimized,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University who for 20 years has been studying what happens legally and medically to women who are raped. “The victim is always on trial. Rape is treated very differently than other felonies.”

So, too, are the victims of lesser sexual assaults. In 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, told Congress that the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her repeatedly when she worked for him, Ms. Hill was vilified as a character assassin and liar acting on behalf of abortion-rights advocates.

Credibility became the issue, too, for Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant chambermaid who accused the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of forcing her to perform fellatio in a Manhattan hotel room.Prosecutors eventually dropped the case after concluding that Ms. Diallo had lied on her immigration form and about other matters, though not directly about the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.
When four women, two of whom identified themselves publicly, said they had been sexually harassed by Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful, they, too, were called liars, perhaps hired by his opponents.

Charges of sexual harassment often boil down to “she said-he said” with no tangible evidence of what really took place. But even when there is DNA evidence of a completed sexual act, as there was in the Strauss-Kahn case, the accused commonly claim that the sex was consensual, not a crime.
“DNA technology has not made a dramatic change in how victims are treated,” Dr. Campbell said in an interview. “We write off a lot of cases that could be successfully prosecuted. It’s bunk that these cases are too hard to prosecute.”

Victims must be better supported with better forensics, investigations and prosecutions, Dr. Campbell said. “This is a public safety issue. Most rapists are serial rapists, and they must be held accountable.”

In one study, published in 1987 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 126 admitted rapists had committed 907 rapes involving 882 different victims.
Rapists are not the only serial sexual offenders. Witness the all-too-frequent revelations of sexual abuse of children involving multiple victims and persisting for decades even when others in positions of authority knew it was going on.

In the latest such scandal, an assistant football coach at Penn State University stands accused of molesting 10 boys. The charges led to the firing of a revered head coach, Joe Paterno, and forced the resignation of the university president for failing to take more immediate action.
The Risks

Last year, according to the Department of Justice, 188,280 Americans were victims of sexual violence.

Among female victims, nearly three-quarters are assaulted by men they know — friends, acquaintances or intimate partners, according to federal statistics.
But fewer than 40 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. Underreporting is more common among male victims and women raped by acquaintances or domestic partners. Only one-quarter of rapes are committed by strangers.

The result of underreporting and poor prosecution: 15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail, according to the network. Dr. Judith A. Linden, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in September that in the United States, “fewer than half of rape cases are successfully prosecuted.”

Victims may be reluctant to report a rape because they are embarrassed, fear reprisals and public disclosure, or think they won’t be believed. “Victims often think they somehow brought it on themselves,” said Callie Rennison, a criminologist at the University of Colorado in Denver. “Rape is the only crime in which victims have to explain that they didn’t want to be victimized.”

These feelings are especially common among college women who may have been drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs when raped by a date or acquaintance.

Victims may not realize that any form of sexual behavior that is not consented to and that causes discomfort, fear or intimidation is considered sexual assault in most jurisdictions. That includes indecent exposure, unwanted physical contact (including kissing and fondling) and lascivious acts, as well as oral and anal sex and vaginal rape, whether with a body part or an instrument.

A minor — in general, 16 or 17, depending on the state — can legally consent to sexual activity. A person of any age who is forced or threatened, developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill, incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, unconscious or preparing to undergo a medical procedure cannot legally consent to sexual activity.

Among young children, girls and boys are equally at risk of being sexually abused. But as they age, girls increasingly become targets; among adults, women represent about 90 percent of cases.

Experts have long debated whether rape should be seen as an act of aggression and control or the product of an irresistible sexual urge. To the victim, the distinction is moot.

The consequences can include pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and low self-esteem; self-blame and depression; substance abuse and eating disorders; fears of intimacy; numbness;post-traumatic stress disorder (nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks, difficulty functioning); borderline personality disorder; unexplained physical problems; and even suicide.

Thus, even if rape victims choose not to report the attacks, prompt medical attention and psychological counseling can be critically important to their long-term well-being.

 

* Text by JANE E. BRODY, NYT, December 12, 2011