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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1
February

Let Us Pray….

This weekend will be all about the SuperBowl for many people. Men and women will prepare for the big game by purchasing food, drinks, new clothes to represent their favorite team, and even a new big screen television to enjoy it on. There will be crowds gathering at the homes of friends and family, the local sports bars, and anywhere else a glimpse of the action can be seen. Millions of dollars will be spent on 30 second commercials hoping the brief exposure will increase revenue for everything from potato chips to computer chips. The nation will be mesmerized by the lights, the sound of helmets cracking, and a man wearing a stripe shirt holding his hands parallel in the air screaming “Touchdown!”.

The truth is however, there will be far more going on than most people will ever know. Young girls and boys will be transported like cargo from near and far. Planes, trains, and automobiles will carry terrified children who will serve the deviant pleasures of men and women who like to engage in the sexual exploitation of children. Imagine if you will, a truck carrying a half dozen girls of all races ages 6-17! Or, how about a half dozen boys on a flight from foreign soil who know what the next few days will hold for them. Imagine the terror that rushes through them and yet, the nation is focused on the pigskin and betting odds.

So today, I say Let Us Pray! Let us pray that this evil cease to exist. Let us pray for every child that is being sexually abused all over the world. Let us pray for the children who are already enroute to the big game as sexual predators salivate at the thought of hurting them in ways we can’t even imagine. Let us pray for the mental stability of these boys and girls who have to find a place in their mind to go to just to diminish the pain a little bit. Let us pray for the healing of these children who are treated like property to be bought and sold. Let us pray………..

And let me be clear, a lot of these kids will come from foster homes, orphanages, and other “institutions”. There will also be kids who are offered up by their own parents! But, for those reading this and thinking it doesnt affect them or it is such a downer to an exciting weekend, please understand that the child in that truck could just as easily be YOURS! The children caught up in this world are often lured in by people they know and trust, and before their families know it the kids disappear into a life of sex trafficking and slavery. So please let us not act like this doesn’t affect us or it is just a problem for “those people.”  This demonic behavior knows no bounds, it isn’t polite, it doesn’t care about whether you are a good person or attend church regularly. The people who carry out these sick and twisted acts don’t give a kitty about what you do for a living, or whether you are an American citizen. They care about making money at the expense of a child! They feed the perverted proclivities of a secret society for profit – plain and simple.

So again I say Let Us Pray! Please!

 

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1
January

It’s New Years….so now what?

As the year comes to a close, we must remember that when the clock strikes 12, the confetti falls, and folks are sharing hugs and kisses, for some people,  this will be just another 60 seconds passing by and the pain they are in will still be there at 12:01.  This is why we must be ever mindful of the struggle many people face as a result of experiencing sexual absuse.

The stastitics in the photo above are real and represent the evil that our society faces.  Children are being sexually assaulted in your city, neighborhood, and possibly even your family by people whom they know, and often love and trust.  The voices of these children are often muted because their abusers have convinced them that nobody will believe them if they report the crimes committed against them.  They also fear what the disclosure would do to their familial bonds and relationships so they suffer in silence.  Yet everyday they wish that someone would take notice of the pain in their eyes and come to their rescue, but for many, that help doesn’t come for years, if at all.

This is why we have to keep sounding the alarm and bringing attention to this epidemic.  We can’t overlook inappropriate behavior towards kids, we can’t give our friends and loved ones a pass when we know they have abused kids, and we can’t make the victim responsible for the acts of their abusers.  We have to honor our obligation to protect children near and far.  And, while this isn’t always easy and can sometimes be down right uncomfortable to stand up for what is right when family and friends are calling for us to look the other way, forgive and forget, or sweep things under the rug so the family isn’t embarassed, we simply cannot.

It may be a New Year, but it can be a constant pain for those affected by this evil.  Let’s not get so caught up in our own lives that we can’t see the reality of the evil in this world.  Let’s not be so quick to bury our hands in the sand because we don’t think this epidemic truly affects us.  The truth is, given the staggering statistics about sexual abuse, it is likely that we all know someone who has been sexually assaulted.  So the question is, does this epidemic only matter to you if you have a face to put with the issue?  If so, look around….the faces are all around you!

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6
March

The Children Are Our Future, So Why Don’t We Protect Them ?

I was lying in bed and began to contemplate the idea that the children are our future.  As the thought lingered, I became saddened by the fact that we, as a society, don’t seem to consider what this really means.  After all, we take precautions like purchasing car seats, child proofing the house, and feeding our children green leafy vegetables so they grow up to be healthy and strong.  We are warned to be on the look out for conditions like obesity, dental caries, and adolescent diabetes.  We even have programs aimed at preventing drug use, teen pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases.  But….when do we take the precaution of preventing child sex abuse?

If the children are truly our future, shouldn’t we take better precautions to ensure that their emotional and psychological health are protected just as much as their physical health?  This involves taking the time to understand the behavioral cues and grooming patterns of sexual predators.  Because, as we all know, they don’t walk around with a big red scarlet “A” for Abuser on their chest, nor do they announce their intentions.  Quite the contrary! They insinuate themselves into our lives ever so cleverly, and most of us are oblivious to their motives because we are caught up in the familial and social connections that we have with them.

In fact, the statistics speak louder than my words ever could.  Research tells us that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.  90% of the abusers will be someone the child knows and trusts.  And, these children are at greater risk of suffering from depression, eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, and mental disorders etc. than children who aren’t sexually abused.  So if this is true, what kind of future are we creating for them when we don’t protect them?

Now some might say that they don’t have children so this isn’t “their problem,” but I beg to differ.  This is an issue that affects us all because we are talking about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of those who will be tasked with running our country, raising the next generation, and caring for us in our old age!  So whether one has children or not, we will all depend on these kids at some point in our lives.  That said, we ALL have an obligation to protect our children – our future.

Protecting them starts with educating ourselves and creating a circle of safety for our children; teaching children boundaries and giving them permission to create boundaries for themselves, and speaking up when we see someone exhibiting potential problem behavior.  This includes trusted friends and family members, teachers, clergymen or neighbors.  Anytime you see someone exhibiting behavior that places a child at risk for sex abuse, say something.

As the song says, I believe the children are our future.  The question is, what type of future are they going to have if we don’t protect them today?  Rest assured, our collective failures as a society today, can and will have devastating and long-lasting effects tomorrow.

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13
November

Helping Others

Discovering that your child has been sexually abused is a life altering moment.  Everything that you believed about your child’s world changes, and you immediately want to fix it.  However, fixing it is easier said than done.  Whether you can actually fix it is actually debatable depending on who you ask.  But, you can seek to ensure that the abuser is charged and punished for their crimes; you can seek counseling for your child to begin the process of mental and emotional healing, you can take your child to a medical doctor to ensure that any physical damage is addressed, and you can support your child emotionally throughout their lifetime.  With all of that said, there is one more thing that you can do…. commit to helping others.

Becoming an advocate for child sexual abuse prevention and supporting survivors (including the parents of survivors) are two important aspects of helping others and it will only cost you your time.  There are free resources that you can tap into to learn more about child sexual abuse and the behavioral cues/grooming strategies of predators, so that you can become a committee of one to spread the word about awareness and prevention.  You can seek out support groups to join in an effort to provide emotional support to those who have been affected by this unnecessary evil as well as to continue your own personal journey to healing.

The idea that we take our experiences and allow shame and guilt to send us running into hiding is exactly what predators want.  However, we must do the exact opposite.  We must take a stand for our children – for all children.  Even if our children aren’t quite ready to publicly acknowledge their experience, we can still support others privately and even anonymously.  The idea is simply to do something…..do something that will help us all fight against child sexual abuse.  Together we must believe that our efforts will make a difference while we take the journey to healing together.

 

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1
September

The Plea Bargain

 

The Plea Bargain…….

Our legal system doesn’t offer much “justice” for those who are victims of sexually based offenses.  The process often leaves the victim and their families feeling as if the penalty imposed was not commensurate to the crime. After all, how does one sexually abuse another human being, a child no less, and the parents are asked to accept an agreement that allows the criminal to spend far less time in jail than the crime actually warranted?

In our case, the DA presented us with a proposed plea bargain that would require our daughter’s abuser to agree to a measly five years in jail. It was presented to us as the best alternative because there was no guarantee he would be found guilty if the case went to trial. We were also pushed to accept this agreement as a way of protecting our daughter from the additional trauma of more court appearances that would require her to testify in front of a jury.

Needless to say, it was a difficult decision because we wanted him to get the maximum sentence. However, we struggled with the thought of whether she could and should endure a trial, and agonized over the fact that it was possible that one juror could derail the entire process and this monster would go free!

In the end we agreed to allow the DA to move forward with offering a plea bargain, but the whole thing never sat well with us.  We knew the law would require him to serve 85% of his time in jail, but that was only 4 years, and in our minds, that wasn’t nearly enough time for the crime. Not to mention that he confessed and it seemed unfathomanable that a jury of twelve wouldn’t find him guilty. But the plea bargain was presented as the best option to ensure that he at least served some jail time.

Of course every case is different and there are definitely mitigating circumstances that determine the direction the DA goes with a case. But, for us, it just seemed that the legal system was geared far less toward the criminal getting the sentence that he deserved, and far more about wrapping these cases up in nice tidy little bow so the respective attorneys’ records weren’t tarnished and they didn’t have to deal with the uncertainty of a trial.

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11
August

Preparing for the Preliminary Hearing and Testifying…..

Preparing for the Preliminary Hearing and Testifying…..

The court process can be very difficult on the victim because it is the job of the abuser’s legal counsel to have the charges dismissed, and if that’s not possible, secure a not guilty verdict.  Therefore, the victim will often have to relive the abuse several times over by way of questioning from the assigned Deputy District Attorney (DDA), the police, and in the courtroom during the preliminary hearing, and again at the trial, if necessary.

In our case, we took our daughter to meet with the DDA prior to her first required court appearance, which was the preliminary hearing.  During this meeting, the DDA advised our daughter that the opposing counsel would ask her questions designed to confuse her and make her look like a liar; upset her and cause her to recant her story, and/or make it appear that abuse was consensual or solicited.  Our daughter was then posed with questions that might be asked by the opposing counsel using foul and vulgar language.  She was asked to by very specific in terms of describing the abuse.  She was admonished to use appropriate anatomical terminology and not nicknames for body parts.  She was also admonished to repeat anything that her abuser said to her verbatim (in other words, if he used profanity, then she was asked to repeat exactly what he said to her).  These sessions were intense for her to endure and for us as parents to witness, although we were asked to step out during a portion of each to ensure that our daughter could withstand the pressure and wasnt being coached via body language etc.

When it was time for our daughter to testify, we requested that the courtroom be closed.  This means that only officers of the court (judge & lawyers) and courtroom staff (clerks and bailiff) were allowed to remain in the court during her testimony.  My daughter was also allowed one adult advocate in the courtroom and I was allowed to sit in close proximity to her while she testified.  The reason for our request to close the courtroom was simple; we didn’t want her to have to relive the abuse in front of strangers and looky loos.  This was a very emotional time and we wanted to make it as comfortable as possible – if comfort was even achievable under the circumstances.

As expected, the abuser’s attorney took every opportunity to make our daughter out to be a liar.  She threw question and after question that was worded just slightly different from the preceding question in hopes that our daughter would slip up and change her answer.  In fact, our daughter subtly called her out using verbiage like “Well, as I stated before,” which indicated that the question had been asked and answered.  The opposing counsel also suggested that the abuse was more or less consensual sex and our daughter solicited the abuse.  Of course, this angered our daughter and before the opposing counsel knew it, our daughter steadied herself and began to respond to each question with such stealthily placed sarcasm that even the judge was caught smirking a time or two. Granted, while this is not advisable behavior, it did have the desired effect because the opposing counsel relented once she realized our daughter wasn’t going to back down or break under the pressure.

It is also important to mention that the preliminary hearing was the first time that our daughter had to come face to face with her abuser since the process began.  She was advised not to look in his direction so she wouldn’t become flustered or break down in tears.  However, our daughter found a sense of triumph in facing her abuser and recounting what he had done to her while she looked him square on.  It was chilling to watch because most people wouldn’t have the type of courage and fight she displayed that day.  If it is even appropriate to utter under the circumstances….we were proud of her that day.

Next week’s topic….The Plea Bargain

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11
August

Going to Court…….

Going to court….

The first court hearing is the arraignment hearing.  This occurs once the District Attorney has determined that there is sufficient evidence to charge the abuser with a crime.  During the arraignment, the charges are read and the abuser enters a plea (guilty/not guilty).  The abuser can also petition for bail and the judge will determine the amount of the bail.

In our particular case, the abuser confessed to sexually abusing our daughter during the interrogation, which led to charges being filed.  However, during the arraignment, he plead not guilty.  Bail was also set, but since he could not afford to post bail and no one that he knew was willing to post it for him, he remained in jail.

Keep in mind, there are numerous hearings that take place during this entire process, and many of them, to my dismay, are for the benefit of the abuser!  As we journey through this process, you will see how warped the system can be and how so many abusers are freed to go out and commit the same crimes over and over.

Next week’s topic……Preparing for the Preliminary Hearing and Testifying

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11
August

Social Services….policies & procedures

Social Services……

Once the crime is reported to the police, the police notify child protective services (CPS) of the case.  CPS opens an investigation that aims to determine whether we, the parents, allowed or created the atmosphere that led to the sexual abuse.  Given that we had another child in the home as well, they also try to determine whether both children are living in a safe environment.  This is where parents can often feel let down by the system.  In essence, our lives and home were being scrutinized like we knew the abuse was occuring!

As we mentioned in a previous post, the police opened their investigation and visited our daughter’s school to question her without our knowledge.  Within a few days of this incident, our daughter sent us a text message stating a social worker was at her school questioning her, and she wanted to know if she had to speak with the gentleman.  Based on her accounts of the interview, he basically told her that if she didn’t cooperate, he could call the police and have her escorted to the police station for questioning.  Of course, the mere suggestion that she would be hauled off in a police car while her peers looked on was yet another form of trauma for someone who had already endured so much and seemingly was still no more in control than when she was being abused.

Incensed by the lack of communication on the part of the social worker, I began calling the number that he left with my daughter after the interview.  When he finally called back, the conversation started off very hostile because we felt completely violated by his actions.  I assured him that we did not appreciate the fact that he showed up unannounced at my daughter’s school and reiterated how upset she was to be pulled out of class yet again all the while wondering what to tell her classmates.  The social worker was ready for a fight and literally began taunting me by telling me he could show up at her school anytime he felt like it and he was on his way to my younger daughter’s school as we were speaking.  That made the conversation even more hostile as I made it clear to him that he was not to show up at either child’s school without notifying us.

The conversation stayed quite heated as he rambled off policy and procedures that defined the scope of power his position provided.  I felt as though my husband and I were on trial.  Even worse, once again our daughter felt like she was being violated and we, as parents, felt powerless because of a “system” that made us part of the criminal element until they decided otherwise.  As this heated discussion continued, I made it clear that WE called the police, WE filed the police report, and WE had been pushing the police to do their jobs the entire time; therefore, WE were entitled to a little more respect in this process.  After admitting that he had not read the report thoroughly and was not aware that we had initiated the police investigation, he apologized and his tone softened. We then had a more civilized dialogue……

The social worker acquiesced and agreed not to go to either daughters’ school to question them.  Instead, we arranged for him to come to our home the following Saturday for an in-home interview with our youngest daughter.  We also arranged to take our daughter to the police station if any additional or follow up questions needed to be asked.

When the social worker arrived that Saturday, he had a brief conversation with us and explained that there are so many instances of predators living in the home with the child, and often times the family is aware of the abuse and does nothing or very little about it.  He suggested that this is sometimes cultural and in other cases it is just simply poor parenting.  He apologized for not handling the situation better and not being informed before moving forward with his investigation.

Our youngest daughter was interviewed while we sat in a separate room.  We later found out that he asked her if she knew why he was there, what was going on with her sister, and if she had been abused herself.  He also wanted to know if she thought we knew her sister was being abused.  She answered the questions honestly and at the end of the interview, he advised us that he had no reason to believe that we were aware of the abuse our daughter had experienced, nor did he believe that we had not provided a safe home for our children.  To sum it up plain and simple, there was no need for our children to be removed from our home and placed in protective custody.

CPS definitely has rules and regulations to follow, which is understandable to a certain extent.  As parents who found out our daughter had been sexually abused for such an extended period of time by a relative whom we saw often was hard enough to process…..BUT, to be the “subject” of an investigation to determine if we were in some way accessories to the crime was just way to much to wrap our heads around.  We definitely felt that sensitivity training was in order and each case should be handled based on its respective circumstances and details. Accusing the parents at the top of the investigation automatically creates an adversarial relationship, which can hinder the process of getting the justice for the victim.

At the end of the day, we say cooperate with CPS because failing to do so could be quite costly…you could lose custody of your child(ren).  It is okay to try and set some ground rules and boundaries, but if the social worker is not willing to work with you, just do your absolute best to do what it asked.  If you feel your rights are being violated, you may need to seek legal assistance.

Next week’s topic….Going to court

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11
August

The Medical Exam….

The Medical Exam……

While we did not learn about our daughter’s abuse until approximately eighteen months after the last encounter, we felt it was prudent to take her to the doctor for a physical exam and tests.  Of course, there was concern that there might be added trauma to her mental state if she was required to undress and subject herself to an exam that many women do not have until they reach adulthood.  However, we spoke to her and explained the importance of making sure that she was physically healthy.  We also gave her the option of stating whether she preferred a male or female doctor.

When making the appointment, we notified the staff at the doctor’s office about the reason for the visit.  We were very specific because we wanted to be sure that the doctor was not blindsided by what would be discussed during the visit.  It was also important to let them know during the initial call that we had just become aware of the abuse,  a police report had been filed, and  an investigation was underway.  These precautionary measure were done in an effort to ensure that the doctor and staff were especially sensitive to our daughter’s needs and avoid a scene that might involve the police or Child Protective Services being called to take another report once we arrived and the appointment got underway.

The appointment involved a screening by the doctor during which my daughter was asked a few open-ended questions to help the doctor assess what type of trauma my daughter experienced.  Prior to actually starting the exam, the doctor took proper care to explain the process of the examination to my daughter, the types of tests that would be run, and when she could expect to receive the results.  As the exam was getting ready to get underway, I gave my daughter the option of me staying in the room or standing outside the door while the examination was conducted.  Thankfully, she chose to allow me to stay in the room with her for support.

I was careful to allow her to answer the questions that were posed to her because I wasn’t sure if the doctor’s report would need to be subpoenaed by the courts and it was extremely important that the doctor could honestly report that all of the information that she received were my daughter’s words and there was no sense of coercion or coaching on my part.  This is very important for all parents and caregivers to understand…..you must let the children speak for themselves if they are able to; otherwise, you can affect the outcome of the reporting and investigative processes.  It is also important to note that your family doctor’s medical report may not suffice in the courts and you may be required to take your child in for a court required examination with a court appointed medical professional.  If that is the case, your legal advisor will provide you with the details and specifics of this process.

All be it we had been praying constantly since we learned of the abuse just days before the medical exam, there was even a greater sense of urgency in our prayers when we were faced with waiting for the various test results.  Keep in mind, discovering the abuse is more than one thinks they can handle as a parent, but the thought of the abuse leaving your child with some type of medical issue creates a whole nother level of mental anguish.  We are grateful to report that our daughter’s tests all came back fine. That was something positive for us to hold on to in the days, weeks, and months to follow!

We thought we would address the aspect of dealing with Social Workers this week as well, but the medical exam and dealing with social workers might be a lot to take in all at once so let’s hold it over until next week.

Next week’s topic…..Social Workers and their policies and procedures

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