6
December

When the “F” word is really offensive

I recently watched a clip of Kathie Lee Gifford speaking about fired TV journalist, Matt Lauer, on the Today show. Gifford was emotional and tearfully expressed shock about the recent reports that Lauer sexually harassed female employees by making lewd and unwanted sexual advances towards them, which created a stressful and traumatic work environment.

She went on to say that the man who had been accused of, and subsequently admitted to some of the accusations, was not the man she knew and loved over the years. And, while this is a textbook display of cognitive dissonance as it relates to how people often grapple to reconcile the reality that someone they know and even love is a sexual predator who has operated under their noses, it was the statements that followed that made me want to jump through the screen and slap her silly!

Gifford began to wax poetic about how “we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and how “no one is perfect”. Then came her cry for mercy to be shown to those who prey on others by comparing sexually predatory behavior to bad behavior such as infidelity. The final rub was her call for forgiveness to be extended to Lauer and anyone else who is guilty of such behavior.

The entire 2:25 minute diatribe that started at the 3:30 minute mark vexed me in so many ways and created a whirlwind of thoughts to bounce off the walls of my mind. I was reeling with feelings of anger, frustration, disbelief, and an overall WTH attitude! I mean, did she really just sit there and suggest that a sexual predator should be granted immediate forgiveness and mercy by trying to convince us that Lauer’s actions are not the sum total of who he is as a person? Really? To that I say, BITE ME, Kathie!

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s consider the trauma that the victims of sexual predators experience at the hands of their abuser and then subsequently by law enforcement, friends and family, and society at large. The trauma of the abuse or violation creates life long emotional and psychological scars that remain well after any physical signs disappear.

The feelings of peace and safety being snatched away in the batting of an eye; the feelings of weakness and shame, the notion that the violation could have been avoided if only one had said, done, acted, or worn something different plays on a constant loop in the victim’s head for days, weeks, months, even years. They struggle with telling someone what happened because they wonder if they’ll be believed or be blamed for what was done to them. It lives with them and changes how they see the world and interact with everyone in their lives. But, Kathie and so many like her, want the victim and the rest of us to extend mercy and forgiveness! Again, really?

Nevermind the fact that in many instances these predators won’t even admit to their actions, nor do they even ask for forgiveness. And, if we want to consider the scriptures, we are to extend forgiveness once a person repents and asks for forgiveness. But even beyond that, why is it so easy for folks like Kathie to completely overlook the hell that the victim has experienced as they race to coddle the abuser? Why isn’t the pain and trauma the victim experienced the focal point of the conversation? Why are they so comfortable pleading for the abuser to be restored all the while sending a clear message to the victim to just forgive and get over it?

This lack of compassion and concern for the victim is a sickness within our society that has contributed to the pervasiveness of sexual violence and misconduct for hundreds of years. The lack of protection of the victim tells the predators that most folks really don’t care that deeply about the victims and the trauma that is caused by this deviant behavior. The immediate need to restore the predator is a green light for them to continue to act on their impulses because the penalty is almost nonexistent and they are often welcomed back into the community relatively quick, if they were even banished at all.

Admonishing the victim and those of us who believe predators should face extreme penalties for their actions is the equivalent of holding the victim down and watching the violation and then saying “it wasn’t that bad” when it’s over. By standing up and proclaiming that there is reason to explore the idea of redemption for these blackened souls, you spit in the face of the victim and try to convince them that it’s raindrops.

So again, I can’t help but scream “BITE ME” to every sexual assault apologist and those pushing the “forgive and move on mantra”. Take your tears and pleas and shove it! Your need to push forgiveness on the victim is cruel and unimaginably insensitive. You open up their wounds afresh with every syllable you utter. And, no matter how much you proclaim to be a Christian who loves Jesus and HIS word, you’re just as much a part of the problem as the predator!

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27
November

To Those on The Outside Looking In

This past week, I celebrated thanksgiving with a friend and her family. Holidays have been a difficult time for me the past couple of years since my family has relocated to GA. Fortunately, I still have a few relatives here and some great friends whose families have taken me in and loved on me; especially during the holidays!

While celebrating, a conversation arose about a young woman who, like me, had been sexually abused by a relative. The individual has had a tough road to healing and seems to be self-destructing. As the conversation went on, someone stated “I hate when people use the excuse ‘I was abused’ as a reason to act out. I hate that society has given them that excuse – they take advantage of it and think it gives them permission to act out.” Now, I know this person meant no harm – but that insensitive and inaccurate mentality is the very one that sends victims into a whirlwind of emotions. So here is my response to that individual, and the rest of you who are on the outside, looking in; with no real understanding of how much of a toll sexual abuse takes on someone. So let me explain something….Displaced hurt is NOT an excuse!

I was abused as a young child between the ages of 11 and 13. I am now 25. I exposed my abuser in 2008. I was 15. You’d think I’d be over it by now, right? WRONG! Sexual abuse is not something you just “get over”. It is an unwanted part of who you are. It is something you carry. Something you cannot forget. For me, it is something I mourned. I mourned the loss of the innocence I once had, the child in me that was forced to grow up. Unfortunately, when I had the ‘birds and bees’ talk with my parents – it was already too late. I had already had a painful introduction to sex, and all of the ‘beautiful feelings’ it was created for when I finally got married. That privilege of being ‘my first’ has already been snatched from the man I will marry.

My introduction to sex was forceful, painful, sickening and bloody; it was SCARY! It was all of the bad emotions that people expect a victim of sexual abuse to feel. But what about the other feelings that no one considers? What about the fact that even though it was an emotionally murderous experience, my body is now familiar with sex; it has now created an appetite that is difficult to suppress. What about the anger that is now so deeply rooted that hate starts to rule in your heart? What about the addictions you form because you feel that there is no one to talk to and no one truly understands? Who else is carrying your thoughts of self-harm or suicide?

These things are all real – and all things that I have experienced. I have experienced trying to have more sex to rid myself of the painful memories of that grueling introduction. I have tried to drink so much to the point of passing out – hoping I’d wake up and not be able to remember. I have considered self harm and suicide. I have tried to be the God proclaiming super saint who has forgiven the abuser and hopes well for him. But the truth is, none of these things worked. On the inside, I was still upset; angry; hurt.

It was not until a friend told me “I am going to love you until it no longer hurts” that I began to heal. I stopped self-medicating, self-harming and began to allow myself to feel the hurt. I began to acknowledge the hurt. I found positive reinforcement in friends and people who really cared about my healing. I started talking about the hurt. I sang about the hurt. I found love. Not in a man who wanted to play on my vulnerability; but I found love in ME! I fell in love with the process of healing organically. I fell in love with the progress and the removal of pain. I fell in love with my voice; and most importantly, I fell in love with freedom!

I have found love for self while healing from the most painful experience I have endured. My process to healing has been nontraditional and full of excess, self-induced pain that created a domino effect of repercussions, failures and heart-breaks. But it has taught me to endure, it has taught me to love and it has taught me to walk in my freedom. No matter how others think, how others feel or what they say. They may not understand my pain, but they will RESPECT my PROGRESS!

For all of you who are on the “outside looking in”, I urge you to consider what that individual is going through before placing judgement. Do not offer fake sympathy wrapped in pity. Do not make statements like “that’s no excuse”. Do not minimize their hurt by saying “oh I am sorry to hear that”. Instead, offer real love and support. Offer ingenuity. Offer friendship. Offer prayer. Offer silence. Chances are, that is all they need! Who knows, you may just save their life!

 

 

-Taylor B.

3 comments

24
October

Social sites – friend and foe

  1. Hello all,

Social sites have a wealth of information that can be beneficial to our lives. The internet also presents a safe haven for predators seeking to prey on the unknowing. Internet predators are social creatures if only to the people they tend to violate.
I encourage parents and older adolescents to learn about the techniques predators use to meet, groom and violate the targets they go after. It is often easier for us as parents to look for resources after a loved one has been raped, molested, kidnapped or violated in some other way. Please be proactive in your diligent efforts to protect your family, friends and community from predators whose sole intention is to seek, steal and destroy!
We can be who or what we want to be on the social sites that allow us to describe who we are and what we are to others. Young people are being lied to constantly by predators saying what the child wants to hear in a time of crisis or a moment of depression. The predator then sets the stage for a better opportunity or a meeting to support and encourage, only to harm the child or young adult when they show their face.
Make no mistake, college students are being sought out as well as single women. Campus parties are potential hot beds of danger. A simple pill in a drink you turned your back on momentarily, a trip upstairs, a visit to the bathroom together, even an exchange of phone numbers or social media contacts can become dangerous situations.
So, if you need a Uber, Lyft, or go on a date, send your location and the other person’s contact information to your friends and family members. You should also make sure the driver or date knows you gave their info to people for your safety. Use Facebook live to post a video of the person you are with and try to get landmarks in the video. This allows for the authorities or your rescuers to locate you quickly!
Again, education is key to safety. Please use the links below to educate yourselves and lets eliminate RAPE!

Help Is Available…..

(click on the links below to navigate to each site)

National Runaway Switchboard: 1-800-RUNAWAY

Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC): 1-800-THE-LOST

National Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888

Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453 or 1-800-4-A-CHILD

Hopeline – 1 800 SUICIDE

www.itsyourchoiceonline.com

www.TAALK.org

Community Forums/Blogs

www.eternitysunrise.org – online magazine and survivor blog

Media Resources

Comfortinthestorm

Making of a Girl

Facebook: Comfort In The Storm

Twitter: @comfortndstorm

Email…..comfortinthestormblog@gmail.com

Phone…..562 270-4009

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24
October

Holiday spirit

The holiday season in near. Use this time to prepare yourselves and your family and friends. What do I mean by prepare? Have a plan in place for different issues that may arise.

Have a plan in place for trips to the mall prior to leaving the house. Review the plan with everyone going to the mall before leaving or upon arrival at the mall. Everyone should know their role in an emergency, the meeting place in or near the mall, each others phone number, etc. Children should not be unattended, especially during the holidays! Malls are super crowded and that is exactly what predators are counting on. If you get separated, again know the meeting place. Children should have the numbers of  911, Police and emergency family contacts in case of separation or emergency. You should have a party plan of emergency as well. Well established rules for each under aged member of the family as well as some adults.

Many people struggle emotionally during the holidays for different reasons. This is a time for the rest of the support system to step up and give extra attention and love to these individuals. A supportive, non judgmental approach would be beneficial in their time of need. Send text messages and make phone calls if you can’t be there physically. Electronic greeting cards are an effective way to show someone that you care. Depression is real and the places it can take someone mentally and physically is real. We must do better at supporting those we consider in our sphere of caring and show them we care. If you suspect someone of contemplating suicide or you yourself are considering suicide PLEASE SEEK ASSISTANCE Now!

Please use todays struggles to be tomorrows rainbow of hope for someone else. Your life matters and time will prove it if you allow it to show you.

Resources

National Suicide Hotline number: 1-800-273-8255

SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

HealthyPlace.com

Suicide.org

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4
February

Boys Raping Boys….The New Epidemic

I have been extremely disturbed by the recent number of reports of young men being raped by other young men. For months, I have been trying to come to terms with why boy on boy rape is more the norm than the exception. Do these young men not understand that their actions are indeed the definition of RAPE? Why are these young men so inclined to torture and injure another human being with little to no remorse when the victim screams out in excruciating pain and agony? Why are our young men so eager to commit attempted murder on the masculinity of another male? Why is there such an insatiable need to control or dominate another young man to the extent that you would traumatize him in the most brutal ways while others stand around and watch? And, how can so many others be so cowardly that they can hear the screams of the victim, see the agony that he is in, and yet they turn and walk away or stand there and secretly give thanks that they’re not the one being victimized? As we tackle the answers to these questions, I can tell you unequivocally that IT’S OUR FAULT and until we take responsibility, this behavior will continue!

A recent article published on www.timefreepress.com about the rape of an Ooltewah High School basketball player really angered me, but more than that, it disturbed my soul. According to the report, a 15 year old boy was sodomized with a pool cue during a team trip for a basketball tournament. The boy had to undergo surgery to repair his bladder and colon. The incident occurred in a cabin that was rented by the team after several of the players had already complained to the coaching staff about being bullied by older teammates. One mother reports that her son told her he “will never forget his teammate’s piercing scream and opening the door to the sight of him lying on the floor bleeding”.

Another article published on www.dailycaller.com suggested that anal hazing among high school boys is officially an epidemic! The article recounts several recent incidents of anal hazing that included the rape of a La Puente High School soccer player with a javelin and a broken flag pole; the use of rebar and a broom handle to sodomize students in Fontana, CA where a teacher was actually present, the rape of a Nodaway Valley wrestling student in Iowa with jump rope handles, and the repeated rape of a Bronx, NY track team member by three of his teammates. Additionally, we also learned of the rape of several Maine West High School soccer players in a Chicago suburb; the rape of multiple JV soccer players at Somerville High School in Boston, and the rape of football and basketball team members at Plano High in Chicago.

If all of these accounts aren’t enough to bring tears to your eyes, the article also recounted another incident that occurred in 2012 at a wrestling meet involving the 13 year old son of a Norwood, CO principal. The boy was bound with duct tape and anally penetrated with a pencil by two other teammates who were the sons of the wrestling coach! The boys were given a one day IN SCHOOL suspension and when the principal confronted the coach about the incident, it is reported that the coach blew it off as something that occurs daily amongst US students. The citizens of this small town in Colorado reportedly sided with the attackers as well and chalked it up to boys being boys as they recounted their own childhood memories of assault and spoke in amazement that the behavior is now being prosecuted as a crime.

So, is this just child’s play or boys being boys and going “a little too far?” Absolutely not! This is the rape of young men at the hands of other young men. This is what rape culture and years of slavery have produced, and before you shut down at the site of the word SLAVERY, please take a minute to open your mind to the possibility that history has shaped us in ways we never imagined. The term Buck Breaking was when male slaves were brutally raped in front of their wives, children, and other slaves by White slave masters and overseers in attempt to completely emasculate them and control them. This savagery also served notice to the onlookers that they would undoubtedly share the same fate if they tried to rebel or disobeyed the master in any way. Albeit a rather hard pill to swallow, these acts of violence, control, and savagery have been passed down in the DNA and nurtured by relabeling behaviors instead of calling them out for what they are.

A child learns right from wrong by what is modeled in front of them. Therefore, when boundaries aren’t properly taught, they never learn self-control and impulse control. When they are exposed to acts of violence and aggression, they learn that aggression is power. When they are bombarded with images of misogyny and sexual violence through social media, video games, music, and other forms of entertainment, they not only become desensitized to the reality of the brutality they are consuming, but they somehow buy-in to the belief that it is normal or in some small way acceptable. What other explanation can there be for a 15, 16, 17 year old to rape another child because they were “late to practice” or “needed to know who was in charge”?

The other aspect of this directly ties into why kids are paralyzed with fear or casually overlook the brutality against other kids when it’s occurring. As previously mentioned, Buck Breaking was also about warning others not to step out of line, so when a young man is watching his classmate being anally sodomized by another classmate, I imagine the need for self-preservation kicks in with a vengeance. But, this is where we must demand more of our kids and challenge them to be leaders and not followers. In every incident that was previously mentioned, there were countless other teammates that either watched or knew what was going on….that is completely unacceptable. We have to teach personal sacrifice and risk as a virtue worth achieving in an effort to change the status quo.

Ok….so why is it our fault? When I say it is our fault, I am referring to the adult population as a whole. Rape Culture is often defined as the normalization of sexual violence against women. It includes trivializing sexual assault, victim blaming, scrutinizing what women wear as if to say they are asking to be assaulted, excusing sexual harassment, and giving passes to inappropriate and even criminal behavior using excuses like boys will be boys. I personally believe the definition should be broadened to include sexual violence against men as well. Moreover, as a society, our indoctrination into rape culture causes us to routinely excuse sexual abuse, assault, and violence, which has resulted in the lack of prosecution and punishment for these types of crime and is clearly a primary contributor for why the problem persists.

So, while history and DNA are definitely contributors to the problem, it is our current response, or lack thereof, to the problem that gives these young men license to continue with this type of behavior. In some cases, the boys are getting a slap on the wrist, while in other cases they are being prosecuted, but not necessarily to the full extent of the law. And even with prosecution, you still have adult supporters who are pleading their cause by trivializing their actions. We are also placing the reputation of athletic programs over the safety and well-being of our children. Sadly, the victim is routinely asked to quietly carry the shame of what was done to them so the program isn’t shut down and a fellow teammate doesn’t lose the opportunity to further their athletic career.

Society also tends to defend the rapist and places the undue burden of proving the assault on the victim. Even when DNA evidence is present, the victim is almost always questioned about how they ended up in the situation that led to their assault, and hit with a barrage of accusations about how they were in some way responsible for it. Without DNA evidence or significant injury being present following an assault, the victim is rarely believed and if the accusation is taken seriously, his/her entire life and sexual history is dragged through the muck and mire in an effort to discredit the accusation. So once again, we are sending a dangerous message to our young men that there is no real penalty for committing sexual assault.

As a society, we are also guilty of not really educating our kids about what sexual assault is; what consent is, and the importance of respecting boundaries. In a recent survey conducted on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, the administration learned there was a higher percentage of the student body that had been sexually assaulted than they were aware of. After speaking with students about the survey’s findings, one of the school’s administrators concluded that increased sexual assault rates on college campuses could be directly attributed to a lack of education and understanding about what sexual assault is. In addition, many students also needed a better understanding of the concept of consent. To their credit however, the school is now engaged in creating a comprehensive educational campaign that provides a definitive understanding of sexual assault; consent and prevention.

We have to understand the complexities and the many layers that are involved in identifying and explaining this new epidemic among adolescent males. The trauma that sexual assault causes is life-long and we must start to take the problem seriously. There are far too many dysfunctional men, and women for that matter, in our society who are trying to hold it together every day because of an act of sexual violence that they experienced during childhood and adolescence at the hands of another child. And if I’m to remain true to the cause and sound the alarm as loudly as it needs to be, I must admit that there were many other instances of child on child sexual violence involving children under the age of 10 that I didn’t reference because I know it is a heavy subject and I didn’t want to overwhelm you.

Stop making excuses for sexual assault by relabeling it as boys being boys….IT’S RAPE. And in order to fully address the problem, some parents need to come to terms with the fact that their children are indeed rapists! Otherwise, you become complicit in allowing a sexual predator to run free into adulthood where the desire to rape will become an insatiable addiction that will cause undue pain in the lives of their victims.

 

Sidenote….some will attribute this behavior to issues of homosexuality, and for some of these boys, there may be some repressed desires that the child may not know how to deal with. However, this is not the case in most instances so please do not be so quick to say “my son isn’t gay so he would never do this.” It’s not about sexual preference…..it is about violence, domination, and power.

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25
November

Holiday Warning….

As we prepare for the Holiday Season, most of us are dreaming about the aroma of candied yams and our favorite desserts. We are thinking about the excitement that comes with decorating our trees and shopping for those who have been nice, and even some who were a little naughty. But, in all of this, we can’t forget that the Holiday Season can be one of the most dangerous times for some children.

For those children who have been sexually abused, they are often forced to attend family functions where their abuser will be present. They will be forced to be appropriately cordial, if not fully engaged with required hugs and kisses as well as being asked to sit on a lap or engage in any other number of displays of affection that makes the child’s skin crawl. For some, these family events bring pure terror because the child knows they will be sexually abused by at least one, if not more than one, family member or family friend. They are also painfully aware that any sign of unwillingness to engage these monsters in disguise could result in them being scolded or punished by their parent and other family members.

The Holiday Season is also a time when we attend church services and other faith-based activities and these are also prime opportunities for predators to abuse their victims as well. It could be the youth leader, the deacon, or the long-time family friend that you were taught to call uncle. Unfortunately, parents are often so distracted by the joy and excitement of the event that they fail to notice the terror on their child’s face or they mislabel the child’s reluctance to engage the predator as the hormonal tendencies of a moody teenager.

However, before you load up the car and make the trek to your next family gathering or Holiday event, I urge you to have a conversation with your child. Talk to them about their bodies, boundaries, and what inappropriate touching really is.  Ask them if anyone has touched them in a way that has made them uncomfortable. Reassure them that they don’t have to hug or kiss anyone that they don’t want to. Ask them if there is anyone that they don’t want to see or be around. Make it abundantly clear that you will be ok with their answer and they wont be forced to engage anyone that they don’t want to. Give them permission to set their own boundaries. Let them know that they wont be required to be out of sight and feel helpless and alone because the adults are talking and don’t want the itching ears of the kids within earshot. Make sure they understand that they always have access to you and the moment they feel uncomfortable about a person or an activity, they can come to you and tell you without fear of being dismissed and not having their worries taken seriously.

No one wants to believe that their family and friends are capable of such horrible deviant behavior, but there are untold millions of kids being sexually abused in these settings every year. There are untold millions of adults who can tell you that the Holiday Season is always bittersweet because it was during these events that they were sexually abused and year after year even after the abused stopped, they were still forced to interact with their abuser. And, while many parents didn’t know what was going on, it doesn’t negate the terror the child felt because they were unprotected in a house full of family and close friends. Not to mention there are so many family members we often view with a jaundice eye or we know they aren’t to be trusted, but we allow others to make excuses for the gut feeling we have that says that person isn’t safe for your children to be around unsupervised.

I urge every parent and care-giver to take this information seriously and share it with others. It’s a magical time of year, but we can’t allow the joy of the season to dull our sensibilities and place our kids in harm’s way. And yes, it can be a downer, but it can literally save your child from being a victim.

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24
November

From a Dad’s Perspective

Shout it from the mountaintop!

Silence is freedom to the perpetrator. Silence is a shackle to the victim. Silence is an albatross around the supporter’s neck.

Silence is the very cloak of darkness a predator needs to continue to lurk behind the scene. Predators need to stay masked in order to present themselves as friendly, upstanding citizens with the best of intentions while shaping the situation, grooming the victim and manipulating the support system to gain inclusion and undermine any thoughts of depravity about their behaviors.

When a victim exposes the darkness dwelling within the predator and the depths to which they will sink to commit these Heinous acts, and the very acts committed themselves, you send a crippling blow to the predator.
By exposing their actions to the masses, you remove the mask they need to operate effectively in the circle which they have been preying on victims.

In order for a predator to work they need others to embrace them and give them access to the very victims they seek to victimize. Many of these predators travel in small circles in which they are familiar with, seeking new victims to satisfy their cravings.

Many predators walk in broad daylight, chest puffed out with the knowledge that their past victims will remain silent, shamed, and burdened down with this unthinkable and hopefully unspeakable guilt! It is this belief that emboldens and empowers the predator to openly seek others while smiling and prancing openly for all to see.

We must help the victims to muster up the courage to break the cycle of silence! This illumination deals a blow to the predator and lifts a weight from the victim. To see the individual who raped, molested, beat, abused you daily, weekly or occasionally at family dinner must stop! The anger stays built up in you because you see how others embrace the monster while you sit in silent pain. Place the guilt where it should be, square on the predator. Don’t let them continue to victimize you.

It is time to turn the table and start to assist yourselves with recovery. Let the demon return to the darkness from which it came. Sing your story, tell of their monstrous deeds to all who will listen. You will save not only yourself but future victims from their predatory practices.

Use the resources you have at your disposal to fight back. Post on the internet, let the campus know who they are, tell the neighbors and most importantly, family and friends should be warned of the viper in the midst!

What gives them the right to be free and happy while you are imprisoned? Why should you sit silently while they mock openly? No longer should you sit silently! Please shout it out…

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12
October

When Kids Attack….How Rape Culture Desensitizes Our Youth

The term Rape Culture deals with the mentality of a group of people, institution, or society in which acts of sexual assault and violence is normalized, promoted, justified, downplayed, or excused due to the way gender, sex and sexuality are viewed. This attitude or belief system as it were generally begins with the leader(s) and trickles down and permeates throughout the ranks of their subordinates.  Now this is not to say that everyone wholeheartedly buys in, but it is through silent dissent that the culture is nurtured and evolves with minimal to no resistance.

Last week, 7 members of New Jersey’s Sayreville High School football team ranging in age between 15 and 17 were arrested for multiple counts including aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration.  The arrests came after 4 freshmen players came forward and reported that they had been assaulted by upper-classmen on the team in a sick and disturbing hazing ritual that involved anal penetration.  At least one of the boys said he was pinned down and assaulted right on the floor of what many athletes would agree is their sanctuary – the locker room.  The place where the tenets of manhood are supposedly taught and character is learned became their torture chamber….take a moment to breathe and absorb it.

How does this type of thing happen?  Who came up with the idea and determined that such action and behavior was in the least bit ok?  How long has this been going on and who all knew about it? These are all questions that I asked myself and questions I imagine you are asking yourself as well.  Without being able to talk to the players and students who attend the school now or those in past classes, I can only offer the following:

  • Hazing is not new.  It is a vile ritual that has gone on for 100s of years and the extent to which victims are violated, most of us will never know.  Those who carry out these often violent, heinous, and life threatening acts against others deem it some type of right of passage because it was done to them and so now they have the “right or privilege” of doing it to someone else.

Whomever started this brutal hazing ritual at Sayreville could have been a victim of sexual assault himself at a young age and took the hazing as an opportunity to pass on the brutality that was done to him.  Another possibility is that it was started by a young man who is simply a sociopath and had no conscience about inflicting such violence and humiliation onto another human being.  But how did so many other players get pulled in and offered their participation in something that many of them inherently had to know was wrong?

The answer is rooted in what can be equated to Groupthink, and it occurs when group members share a common fate resulting in tremendous pressure toward conformity.  In simple terms, if the person who originated this particular ritual was seen as the “leader” and all the other players felt he possessed an ability to affect their lives, be it on the field or off the field, they went along.  Make no mistake however, even though some of the players may have felt pressured to conform, they DO NOT get a pass.  They should be prosecuted and punished just like the ring-leader because at the end of the day, they made a choice and by carrying out these heinous acts, they too have become sex offenders!

So how did we get to the place where teens are sexually assaulting others when they had to have known it was wrong?  Aside from the obvious issue of needing to reinforce some core value concepts for our young people including being a leader and not a follower; doing the right thing in the face of adversity, and personal accountability for one’s actions, we also have to stop ignoring the issue of Rape Culture that has become so prevalent in our society.

Sexual violence against women, men, boys and girls is prevalent around the world! But somehow we, as a human race, have become desensitized to it.  Human trafficking and sexual exploitation continues at alarming rates and perpetrators have become even more brazen in their activities.  Women, men, boys, and girls are sold like produce at the local farmer’s market.  There is no regard for a person’s right to choose who is allowed to touch them or the right to decide when and with whom they engage in sexual activity.  People have become product and that product is imported and exported at ports all over the world.  People are sold to the highest bidder on street corners, in chat rooms, by mail, in hotel rooms on Super Bowl Sunday, and in conference rooms following the meetings of some of the world’s most influential businessmen and political figures and very few are even remotely aware, concerned, or willing to call it out and fight for the victims.

We are living in a society where women and girls can be sexually assaulted and we slut shame them if they had the audacity to have been sexually active prior to the assault, or if they had what others would consider too many sexual partners prior to the assault.  We look at what a young girl is wearing and suggest that she was sexually abused or assaulted because she dressed too provocatively and somehow caused her abuser/attacker to abandon self-control and develop a case of the “can’t help its.”  We will even say things like “she was going to have sex anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal.”  If a man or young boy is seen by other men as weak, effeminate, or even gay, they become prey and when sexually assaulted, they are humiliated and their sexual orientation is put on trial if they come forward.

Where is the outrage for the victim?  Who is calling attention to the fact that they were violated by someone who had no right to do that to them?  Why does the abuser get a slap on the wrist for their crime, if there is any punishment at all?  My belief is because there are so many pedophiles and sexual deviants in high places that make our laws, uphold the law and ultimately create ways to subvert the law. They literally have a secret society amongst themselves that gives one another a pass for their actions and behaviors while the rest of us are left to fend for our own safety.  They have created a mindset that numbs folk to the tragic levels of sexual assault and violence that is so pervasive in the land.  If we bring it full circle, it is this same numbing of society that a young man can sexually assault his teammate and feel it was simply a prank, horseplay, a stupid hazing ritual, or just silly guy stuff.

What is going on in New Jersey is just one of many stories where sexual assault was used to control or dominate another person.  It’s an all too familiar occurrence where no value is placed on a person’s right to decide what happens to their body.  Another case where sex is used as a weapon and not the beautiful act that God created it to be.  Therefore, parents have to start training their children early so they are already programmed to recognize sexual misconduct and sexual assault so by the time they see it for the first time, they can tell someone and not be party to a culture that normalizes, promotes, justifies or ignores it.  Adults have to stop burying their heads in the sand and acting like these things are not going on around us and call it out when we see it.  Later for acting as if it’s none of your business and being more concerned about appearances than the safety and well-being of another person.  Out with the talk of people being nice and how surprised we are that they could be so evil, and let’s open up the discussion about the warning signs we missed and what we need to do to be more vigilant about protecting our children and people in general from these monsters.

The truth is…..until we, as a people, stand united on the fact that no one has the right to strip another human being of their right to choose who touches them, we affirm that we have ACCEPTED rape and violence as just part of our culture – as just part of who we are as a human race.

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26
June

It’s NOT A Love Story!

The truth of what child sex abuse is and what it looks like has been missed because the packaging of this crime has been neatly wrapped and presented in a false light. Whether this is done intentionally by some or subconsciously by others, I am not sure. But, I am clear on one thing…it has to stop! If we are ever going to make a dent in the crusade to end this epidemic, we must call a crime a crime.

Everyday there are articles in the newspaper about men and women who have sexually abused kids; be it a teacher, a neighbor, or a so-called boyfriend or girlfriend. The headlines are often very similar – “Teacher caught in a sexual relationship with teenage student,” “Prominent executive accused of having sexual tryst with minor,” “Clergyman involved in inappropriate sexual relationship with 14-year-old boy.” On any given day, you can browse the internet and find one of these heart wrenching stories that causes you to question the humanity of those carrying out these heinous crimes against children. But…have you ever stopped to ask yourself why these headlines give the appearance that this was some romantic tryst among two consenting individuals? Does it seem even remotely rational to suggest that the interaction between a 35-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy could seriously be considered a lovers’ rendezvous? Does the physical penetration of a 12-year-old girl by a man twice or three times her age make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Do you see the actions of a clergyman against a pubescent teenager who doesn’t feel safe enough to tell what is being done to them as a consensual sexual love affair? I mean, really? Is that what you interpret these details to mean?

Well here is the problem with the media and news outlets. They spend an awful lot of time writing and reporting these stories in such a way that people will watch them and read them and yet not be so sickened that they close the browser window, change the channel, or toss the entire newspaper in the trash and declare that they don’t want to watch the news or read the newspaper because it’s too depressing. We, as consumers, are literally being told how to feel about something as sick and repulsive as child sex abuse. And, because we often prefer a feel good piece over the truth, we allow ourselves to believe a child was actually involved in a “relationship” instead of concluding that a child was raped, sodomized, and mentally scarred by a sexual deviant.

In a tweet by the Philly Inquirer, a teacher was said to have given a 14-year-old student “special attention.” The Inquirer later came back and apologized for this gross misrepresentation of sexual abuse. In yet another incident, a gym teacher was reported as being involved in a “year-long tryst” with a 16-year-old boy and “bedded another student.” These stories are disseminated EVERYDAY and flagrantly romanticized as though these children not only willingly participated, but the writer would also have us to believe that the child possessed the cognitive ability to function in the mental and emotional complexities that accompany a sexual encounter! What 8, 10, 12, 14, 16-year-old child do you know who is truly prepared and capable of being in a “relationship”? If the truth be told, most of us who are 20, 30, and 40+ struggle with the mental and emotional aspect of relationships, so why is the media so comfortable characterizing these crimes as trysts, relationships, and sexual encounters?

WAKE UP!! Stop believing the lie! These are not love stories. They are stories of rape, molestation, trafficking, and abuse! We cannot allow others to re-label these crimes to make them more palatable because in doing so, we don’t pursue the crusade to end this epidemic with the fervor and vigilance that it demands. We don’t push for harsher sentences and vote out judges and lawmakers who are soft on those who commit crimes against children. We subconsciously give the pedophile license to offend again because we fail to characterize their action as monstrous and worthy of the ultimate punishment. Romanticism of these crimes also cause people to frame these actions as a lapse in judgement or poor behavior choices instead of an insatiable deviant sexual desire in someone who cannot be rehabilitated during the average (3-8 years) prison sentence for a sex crime.

I implore you to not allow yourself to be sucked in by the media cycle and see these headlines for what they are….stories of sex crimes against children. There is nothing romantic about rape and sexual abuse, and the child is definitely not going to remember it as the warm and tingly moment of one’s first kiss or crush. It will always be the time in his or her life when they wished someone could see what was happening to them and come to their rescue and protect them like every child deserves.

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4
April

A Major Problem For Minors…..

April is Child Abuse Awareness month and while we long for the day when abuse of any kind is no longer a problem in our society, we must continue to sound the alarm until it is eradicated!

I was listening to the radio today like I do on most afternoons as I wind down my work day. The topic of the day dealt with a 16 year old boy who had been engaged in a sexual relationship with a teacher. The radio personality commented that he felt the woman wasn’t in the wrong because the young man knew what he was doing and getting it on with a grown woman was more of a right of passage – a badge of honor. When asked if he would excuse an adult male for having sexual relations with a 16 year old girl, he said she too was making a conscious choice and therefore, he wouldn’t find the man at fault in such an instance either. I was appalled at his comments and even more disappointed that he would be so irresponsible as to spout such nonsense over the airwaves for predators to revile in and justify their proclivities. Not to mention the sting that survivors must have felt to hear that someone viewed their abuse as self inflicted.

The guy who made these comments refused to acknowledge the fact that a 16 year old isn’t truly capable of  understanding the complexities (emotionally, mentally, and physically) of a sexual relationship, and in many states, isn’t legally able to consent to a sexual relationship with an adult. Beyond that however, what really struck a nerve with me is the simple fact that it is exactly this type of thinking that has allowed child sexual abuse and sex trafficking of minors to continue for so long! As long as we have people like this man who mistake physical development for cognitive development, those who prey on minors will continue to feel justified in their actions. As long as we can look at a young woman at the tender age of 16 who is still learning her own body and suggest that her fully developed breasts equate to her being able to understand the gravity of a sexual relationship, we are still so far from protecting our children in the manner in which they deserve. As long as we can look at a pubescent young man who is struggling to understand the changes his body is going through almost daily and suggest that the development of muscle mass; the deepening of his voice, and a steady increase in hormone production makes it a rite of passage to lay with a grown woman, we, as a society, are responsible for the overwhelming amount of dysfunction we see in our men.

So many of us are sickened when a 4, 5, or 6 year old child is sexually abused, and we should be; however, we need to have the same outrage toward those who prey on the 14, 15, and 16 year old kids as well. We have to stop looking upon these kids as though they are asking to be victimized and place the responsibility of what is actually a crime on the adults who know better and choose to carry on these inappropriate relationships in spite of the laws that prohibit them. Teachers, clergy, family members etc who are in positions of authority are abusing their roles and luring our kids into their twisted fantasies and making them think it is love – all because these young minds aren’t developed enough to see through the lies and mental manipulation.

When we consider that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18, we have to admit that we have a problem in our society. We see these stories all day long and will often blame the kid for being involved with an adult who knew better in the first place. We shame the girl by saying she was too provocative in her dress or flirted way too much. We call the young man mannish and say that he set out to get that first piece of tail, and getting it from an older woman was just icing on the cake. But what about the adult? Do they bear no responsibility for subverting the law? Are they not held to a standard that differentiates between right and wrong? Or, are we only willing to stand up for a child when it’s our own? Has the media desensitized us to the point that seeing a 40 year old man prey on a 14 year old girl with a D cup and a short skirt is no longer disgusting and heinous. Are we really ok with a 13 year old boy having his first sexual encounter with a 30 year old teacher who accepted the responsibility to teach him Algebra or English, and instead decided her sick needs were more important so sex ed became her lesson of choice?

We have a society full of dysfunctional relationships now because too many were violated as children and the wounds didnt heal. These kids grow up with major trust issues, they experience sexual identity crises, they are in and out of relationships and don’t understand why their relationships never seem to work. Boys become closed off men on one end of the spectrum and domineering control freaks on the other end. Girls  become women who struggle with being sexual on one end of the spectrum and chronically promiscuous on the other end. All because an adult crossed the line and introduced them to things that were designed for two consenting adults.

Bottomline….minors are minors! No amount of make up or muscles change that. These kids need our protection!

 

 

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