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.



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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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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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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Mixed Messages

As I contemplated writing this, I struggled with how it would be perceived by some. Please understand that our aim is NEVER to offend anyone, but we have accepted the responsibility to provide content that will help you protect your children from the dangers that predators pose to children everywhere. So here it goes…….

Last night I saw the cutest little girl walking by.  As she got close, we had a friendly exchange about her impeccable sense of style.  As we conversed, a man she knew approached her and they shared a quick verbal exchange. He then pulled out a dollar and handed it to her.  As she began to walk away, he asked her if he could have a hug since he had given her the dollar.  She quickly turned to him and complied because they obviously had a relationship, and she felt very comfortable with him. HOWEVER….I immediately cringed on the inside because I saw this as a frequently used grooming tactic of a predator!

Don’t get me wrong, this particular man did not pose a threat to the child, but there is an inherent danger in teaching children that gifts (solicited or unsolicited) come with a price that they should feel obligated to pay.  In her innocence, the little girl gave her trusted family friend a hug in exchange for the dollar because he presented it as what she “owed him” or what she “was supposed to do”.  But…..what happens when someone a child knows and trusts offers them something like candy or money, or a toy and then touches them in an inappropriate way and suggests that the child owed it to him/her as payment for their gift?

The grooming process begins early and typically involve seemingly innocent interactions in the presence of parents and caregivers. A piece of candy here, a dollar there, an unsolicited hug from time to time. Each interaction however, builds more and more trust and suggests to the child that this person is accepted by mom and/or dad. When inappropriate behavior begins, the predator will often reference those previous interactions that occurred in the parents’ presence to reassure the child that the parent gave them permission the carry out their molestation and/or convince them that if they attempted to tell, they wouldn’t be believed because the parents trusts him/her.  Now as adults, we know if our child came to us and said this man or that woman touched them in a way that they didn’t like, we would  believe them.  But, a child does not have the same mature reasoning skills as an adult to decipher between the lies the predator tells and the reality of their parents’ protective nature.  Thus, they often fall prey to the predator because he/she is able to mentally outwit them….AND their parents for that matter.

So the next time a friend, family member, or even a stranger offers your child a gift and requires physical contact in exchange, be it a hug, kiss, or even a hand shake, remind them that gifts shouldn’t come with demands. Let your child know that they do not have to allow anyone into their personal space and they, nor you, need to make any apologies for their decision. Moreover, teach them that it is better to return the gift if the giver isn’t satisfied with a “thank you,” and is requiring that they be allowed to cross your child’s personal boundaries as a way for your child to show his/her gratitude.  These critical lessons of requiring others to respect their personal boundaries today, can prevent them from falling prey to the grooming strategies of sexual predator in their midst Tomorrow!

**Thankfully, the mom in this particular incident took a mental note of the exchange between the man and her daughter so when I mentioned it to her a few moments later, she assured me that she was already preparing to revisit “the conversation” regarding boundaries with her daughter on their way home.**

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A Mother’s Pain

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Mainly, I think it was because I allowed self doubt to creep in and cause me to question whether I (we) was really helping anyone.  In the quiet recesses of my mind, I questioned whether we could truly end the epidemic that plagues our society and preys on our children.  Day after day we see the stories of child sex abuse taking place in our schools, religious institutions, and homes, and often the crime is lightly punished if at all.  But today….. I have a renewed sense of conviction and WE can stop this epidemic; even if it’s one child at a time.

I attended a screening of a documentary regarding male survivors this past week and a woman who sat on the front row and whose face I never saw touched my heart in ways I can hardly explain.  She spoke of adopting a little boy at the age of five and how devastated she was to learn from him that he had been sexually abused.  Her heart was obviously broken in what seemed to resonate as a million tiny pieces. She cried and shrieked in pain as she recounted his experiences and questioned how she could help him to heal.  She explained that he is now 33 years old and he is struggling with healing and recovery. The pain in her voice was so heart-wrenching and raw; it resounded with the same ache that she felt when her son first first disclosed his abuse. I knew this because I am all too familiar with that pain.

Hearing this mom grieve for the loss of her son’s innocence under such horrific circumstances caused me to sympathize in ways I wish couldn’t. It also reaffirmed the need for forums such as ours that strive to be a soft place for survivors and their families to land. An environment that gives validation to a mother’s pain for something that happened 25+ years ago, but still hurts when the wound is touched or even slightly brushed upon. A place that tells survivors you can heal, but your journey may not look like other people’s.  It will be unique and that’s ok.

Comfortinthestorm.com doesn’t have all the answers – we never professed to. We are about being exactly what our name says; to provide comfort to you no matter what stage of the storm you’re in.  So when a mother is crying and feels helpless, we can say we understand and we’re here to listen. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence. We’re here to share our pain and speak healing into someone else’s brokenness thereby placing us one step closer to our own healing.

The evil is around us; it’s being discussed on the evening news, it’s in the newspaper, and it’s on social media, but if we don’t pull our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that it is often closer than we’d like to admit or may be aware of, the stories of abuse will continue. We have to start educating ourselves, our children, and those around us. It’s an uncomfortable topic and many shy away from it, but I can’t stress enough how important of a conversation it is. Conversations regarding awareness and prevention need to be taking place everywhere, all the time. It will save a child, protect their innocence, and prevent a mother’s pain.



Letting Go….

Many parents find it hard to step back and allow their young adults to make their own decisions; especially if those decisions are clearly not in their best interest.  I, for one, am one of those parents. However, I am quickly learning that letting go is just as much apart of parenting as cleaning scraped knees and tucking small smiling faces into bed at night. This is not to say that we don’t require our young adults to respect the rules our home and continue to live a life that reflects the morals we’ve instilled in them. It simply forces us to realize that while we often know whats best for them, life is about learning, making mistakes, and hopefully learning from those mistakes.  They need the space to learn and they can only learn by making decisions AND mistakes.  So the next time I have the desire to force my opinion and will, I will step back and ask “Is this a letting go moment?”

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Parenting Through Tough Times

Parenting through tough times will cause us to question ourselves and God’s plan for our lives. However, the key is to stay the course, adjust as needed, and understand that parenting isn’t for cowards. Mistakes will be made, hard lessons will be learned, and inevitably your child will find fault in some of your decisions. Don’t give up……our children are depending on us.

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Killing Them Softly

Recently acclaimed music video producer, Aswad Ayinde, was sentenced to 90 years in prison for raping his six daughters over the course of 20+ years. Ayinde fathered six children with his daughters, two of whom died in the home and were subsequently buried by Ayinde. The mother of the girls claimed she lived in constant fear of Ayinde and cites fear as the reason she allowed him to carry out his heinous behavior.

Many questions flood my mind when I ponder the trauma these girls were subjected to well into their adult lives. I can’t even begin to imagine the hell they endured being abused by the person who was supposed to be their biggest protector. Not to mention the disdain that must have developed towards their mother once they realized she wasn’t going to come to their rescue. It is utterly unimaginable that parents could carry out such unconscionable acts against their own kids!

The truth is however, this type of evil, vile, and deviant behavior is carried out everyday in homes across America. Everywhere from small town USA to the projects; likely in my neighborhood and yours. These kids are waiting for someone, anyone to take notice of the oddities surrounding these families; kids who aren’t allowed to play outside, they appear fearful, or present with unexplainable bruising and other injuries. Granted, these things alone aren’t evidence that abuse is occurring, but it won’t hurt to give yourself permission to consider the possibility and pay closer attention to determine if anything is awry.

Often times it is because we are all so conditioned to “mind our own business” that we ignore our intuitions. It is impolite to even consider that someone we know could be capable, let alone involved in such behavior. But, we owe it to these children to take a second look because while millions of fans were singing along to Ayinde’s Killing Me Softly video masterpiece, his children were singing the chorus and meant every word of it!


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Take Back Your Power

I was listening to the victim impact statement from one of Ariel Castro’s captives today, and while she clearly and rightfully holds contempt for the man who stole years of her life, she victoriously proclaimed that he, nor his satanic behavior, will continue to define her. My spirit stood in applause for her conviction because she has made the decision to take back her life. Will it be easy? Of course not! But…..she recognizes that her healing is directly tied to her ability to stop seeing herself as his victim, and instead declare herself a survivor.

This young woman will no doubt be in therapy for years and will fight for her healing each and every day because of the depth of the trauma she experienced.  However, she has decided to take control of healing and she is starting by taking back her power! She literally stood flat footed in the presence of the evil that tried to destroy her and declared, “You can’t control me anymore.” This was a huge step on her road to recovery.

May the Lord continue to heal her (and all survivors)…mind, body, soul, and spirit.

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