Category Archives: Neglect

A Survivor Turns Advocate

Kidnapping Survivor, Elizabeth Smart, Author KOMUnews, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/komunews/7405187850/ (CC BY-SA 2. 0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Elizabeth Smart – kidnapped, raped, and tortured over a 9-month period, as a teen – has since become a victims’ advocate [1A].

Now in her early 30s, Smart wrote in a recent Instagram post:

“I never thought I would say that I’m grateful for what happened to me as a 14 year old girl but I can honestly say that I’m not sorry it happened to me because of what it has allowed me to do, the people I’ve been able to meet, and the cause that has become and driven such a large part of my life [1B].”

Smart has spoken with the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association https://www.fppoa.org/ and the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association https://georgiasheriffs.org/index.php/programs-services/sex-offender-registry on the importance of the Sex Offender Registry.

In 2018, she and her husband, Matt Gilmour, welcomed their third child.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame
” (Joel 2: 25-26).

[1A and 1B]  Newsweek, “Elizabeth Smart Says She’s ‘Grateful’ For Brutal 2002 Kidnapping” by Daniel Avery, 8/28/19, https://www.newsweek.com/elizabeth-smart-grateful-kidnapping-instagram-1456610.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Obsessive Love

“Romeo and Juliet” by Frank Dicksee (1884), Southampton City Art Gallery, Source http://www.odysseetheater.com (PD-Art, PD-Old-80)

The TLC channel is currently running a series titled “90 Day Fiance:  Before the 90 Days” https://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/90-day-fiance-before-the-90-days/ .   Alternately engaging, appalling, and cautionary, this reality show depicts couples whose relationships began online.

Though most have never met, all program participants feel certain they have found true love.  The question presented is, have they?  A more telling question might be, do they understand the nature of love at all?

The latter is a question abuse victims must confront, themselves, if they are to heal.

Online Relationships

Unfortunately, online relationships are prone to the distortion of projection.  We see what we want to see; hear what we want to hear.  We fill in the blanks with the image of our ideal, hope fueling our fantasies.

Abuse victims are especially vulnerable to this distortion.

Abuse and Our View of Love

Child abuse – whatever form it takes (emotional, physical, sexual, or neglect) – skews our view of love.  Abuse teaches us that love must be earned, and requires sacrifice on our part to the point of self-destruction.

Deprived of real love, we become desperate for it.  This continues to play out in adulthood.  We settle for crumbs, for partners who beat us, rob us, and cheat on us – all the while sure that we cannot live without them.

Destructive Love

No mere post (or reality show, for that matter) can capture all the complexities of love.  We can though clear up a few misconceptions.

A great deal done in the name of love is destructive.  Women are frequently stalked in the name of love.  Murders are regularly committed in the name of love.  Teens, in particular, commit suicide in the name of love.

Obsession is not, however, genuine love.

A.  Stalking

Social media and romantic comedies portray stalking as a compliment to the object of the stalker’s “affection” – something funny, even sweet [1][2].

In reality, over 7 million people are stalked each year, most by a former intimate partner [3].  Many are physically attacked, raped, and/or killed by their stalker.  Others live in fear – their privacy violated, their sense of safety gone, their loved ones placed in jeopardy. Continue reading

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Narcissism – Those We Should Not Trust

“Narcissus” by Caravaggio (c. 1596), Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome (PD-Art, PD-Old-100).

Narcissists are known for extreme self-absorption and a glorified sense of self. 

The victims of their manipulation can suffer life-long, crippling consequences [1].  These may include  a mistrust of loved ones, severe self-doubt, depression, and an obsession with supposed faults.

For the victims of narcissistic abuse, I highly recommend the website of Cynthia Bailey-Rug https://cynthiabaileyrug.wordpress.com/ 

Her post titled “Warning Signs of Those You Shouldn’t Tell about the Abuse in Your Past”  clearly identifies those individuals whom abuse victims should not trust with information about their abuse history.  I have excerpted the warning signs below. 

The full post can be found at:  https://cynthiabaileyrug.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/warning-signs-of-those-who-you-shouldnt-tell-about-the-abuse-in-your-past/.

“…Below are some warning signs that someone is not safe to tell your story to.

If someone refers to your relationship as one where both you & your abuser are at fault for its demise, this person isn’t safe.  We all know that no one is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes.  However, when a person is abusive, it’s not an innocent mistake.  It’s a deliberate choice to harm another person.  Any functional person should recognize that!

All victims need understanding & empathy.  Even if a person hasn’t been in an abusive relationship, anyone should be able to grasp that it’s not a pleasant experience & feel badly that anyone experienced that.  Someone who can’t clearly lacks empathy & is a toxic person.

Avoid anyone who trivializes the abuse.  One of my aunts once referred to the abuse I experienced as, ‘childhood hurts.’  That truly hurt me & it destroyed our relationship.  Luckily, it happened well into my healing journey.  If it happens to someone new to their healing, an invalidating comment like this can be devastating!

Those who make excuses for abusers should be avoided.  People who do this are as toxic as the abuser!  They invalidate the victim’s pain & suffering, & even make the victim feel ashamed for not being understanding, or being too sensitive & such.  The truth is there is NO good reason to abuse, period.

People who judge a person’s healing are toxic.  Everyone heals differently & at a different pace.  Many toxic people try to rush a victim along with comments like, ‘You need to let this go.’  ‘It’s been how many months since you left him?’  ‘You told me this already.’  This does no good!  To process & heal from abuse, it takes a lot of time, energy & sometimes even telling the same story over & over in an attempt to make some sense of it.  A person who doesn’t understand that is toxic.

Anyone who uses a person’s faith as a reason they should tolerate abuse is incredibly toxic & should be avoided at all costs.  While God didn’t promise this life would be easy, He never said anywhere in the Bible that tolerating abuse is good & holy.  Yet, there are many who think it is the ‘good Christian’ thing to do, tolerating abuse.  I’m no theologian, but I do recognize that tolerating & enabling abuse is not only wrong, it’s not God’s will.

If you come across these kinds of people, remember, not everyone needs to know your story.  Refuse to discuss it with them.  You don’t need to be abused even more than you already have been!”


[1]  PsychCentral, “Narcissistic Abuse and the Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome” by Dr. Athena Staik, 11/17, https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2017/03/narcissistic-abuse-and-the-symptoms-of-narcissist-victim-syndrome/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT:  https://alawyersprayers.com

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Adornment and the Heart

Poster for film Butterfield 8 starring Elizabeth Taylor, Source http://www.movieposter.com (PD copyright not renewed)

Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 3: 3-4).

Body image is a complicated issue for child abuse victims.

Disregard for and “separation” from the body is not uncommon among victims.  This is symptomatic of grief and an attempt to distance oneself from the violation.  It may be coupled with the inability to have sex, an attempt to restore innocence and avoid further violation.

The world’s superficial values regarding beauty can reinforce the poor body image from which abuse victims frequently suffer.  Damaged – in our own eyes at least – we often doubt ourselves to be deserving of love, sometimes living out a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The alternate approach is sexual promiscuity, an attempt to regain sovereignty over one’s body and a desperate plea for love.  Elizabeth Taylor delivered a powerful performance illustrating this approach in the movie Butterfield 8.  A large number of women in the sex trade were, in fact, victimized as children.

God’s love does not require that we somehow reinstate stolen innocence.  His love is freely given to all who will invite Him into their hearts – no adornment necessary.

Originally posted 1/17/14

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT:  https://alawyersprayers.com

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Restored to Life

“Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” by Angelica Kauffman (1796), Neue Pinakothek, Germany (PD-Art, PD-Old)

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…’ ”(John 11: 25).

Jesus actively ministered to women.  He not only healed women (Matt. 8: 14-15), He fellowshipped with them (John 12: 2-3).  And He forgave women their sins (Luke 7: 44-50).

Jesus taught women (Luke 10: 39; John 4: 6-26), upheld their rights in divorce (Matt. 5: 31-32, 19: 3-9), and ignored the laws of ritual purity to address their urgent needs (Matt. 9: 20-22).  Jesus used a Gentile mother, begging for intervention on behalf of her daughter, to illustrate faith (Matt. 15: 22-28), and a poor widow to illustrate generosity (Mark 12: 41-44).

Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3-11).  Out of compassion, He raised both Jairus’ little girl (Matt. 10: 18-19, 25), and the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7: 11-15) from the dead.

And women ministered to Jesus (Luke 8: 1-3).  When all the Apostles but John had fled or gone into hiding, women remained faithful at the cross (Matt. 27: 55-56). While women were not considered reliable witnesses at the time, it was to women Jesus first revealed His Resurrection (Matt. 28: 1-8, Mark 16: 9-10).

Jesus still ministers to women today.  Deadened though we may feel, as a result of abuse, Jesus has the power to restore us to life.  We need only place our trust in Him.

Originally posted 4/20/14

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Heroes

The film The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about a group of gunslingers who selflessly defend a town against enormous odds.

In the 1960 version (starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen), the men fight off bandits in a Mexican village.  In the 2016 version (starring Denzel Washington), they combat a ruthless robber baron in a frontier town.

Demons 

In both versions of the film, the gunfighters are unquestionably heroes – strong, courageous, and expert at their craft.  In each version, however, one man in the group wrestles with demons from his past.

In the 1960 version, the character “Lee” (played by Robert Vaughn of “Man from UNCLE” fame) fears he has lost his nerve.  Haunted by the enemies he has killed, Lee suffers from nightmares.  He drinks.  His hands tremble.  He breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of battle.

In the 2016 version, the character “Goodnight Robicheaux” (played by Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate marksman who now has difficulty taking aim.  Goodnight sees hallucinations that he fears foretell his death.

Both men worry that they will not be able to perform when called upon to do so, that they will let others down.  Both consider themselves weak and cowardly.

A Different Perspective

But the audience does not view them that way.  The audience feels enormous compassion for these characters.

Both men stumble.  Yet they somehow find the courage to face their fears, in defense of others.  That they are flawed is one reason The Magnificent Seven has such a powerful impact.  Their internal struggles make the film more compelling. Continue reading

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Why Parents Kill

“The Sacrifice of Abraham” by Giovanni Beinaschi (c. 1636), Musee des Beaux-Arts de Brest, Source https://musee.brest.fr (PD-art, PD-old-70)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

  • In 1994, divorced mother, Susan Smith, deliberately drowned her two young sons [1]. First fabricating a story that she had been hijacked, Smith ultimately admitted having intentionally rolled her vehicle into a lake with Michael, 3 y.o., and Alex, 14 m.o., still in the backseat.  Smith claimed to be suicidal at the time.  However, testimony at trial revealed Smith’s desire to resume her relationship with a man who did not want children.
  • In 1997, Melissa Drexler, 18 y.o., gave birth in a bathroom stall at her prom, suffocated her newborn, and left the baby’s body in a trash can [2].
  • In 2002, Andrea Yates drowned all five of her young children in the bathtub [3]. Yates had been suffering from serious postpartum depression, and had made multiple suicide attempts.  She was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity.
  • Last year, Stephanie Adams, a former Playboy model, pushed her son, Vincent, 7 y.o., out a Manhattan hotel window to his death before jumping herself [4]. Adams was involved in a custody dispute with the boy’s father at the time.
  • Last month, Martin Pereira burned his daughter Zoey, 3 y.o., to death [5A]. Intent on committing suicide, Pereira had placed the child in the backseat of his vehicle, with gas cans in the vehicle and the rear doors chained shut.  Pereira, himself, escaped the blaze at the last moment.  He, too, was involved in a custody dispute.

The names change, but the story remains the same.

A study published in Forensic Science International found that as many as 500 children per year in the United States are killed by a parent [6].  This does not take into account abortions. Continue reading

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Mercy

Illustration from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” as published by Hodder & Stoughton (1914), Author Internet Archive Book Images, Source Flickr.com (No known copyright restrictions)

WARNING: Graphic Images

“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.”

– Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

  • Myl Dobson, 4 y.o. was hideously tortured by New York caretaker, Kryzie King, during the final months of his life [1]. The youngster had been left with King by his incarcerated father, Okee Wade, whose custody of the boy was actually subject to court ordered supervision. Caseworkers visited the home 9 times without recognizing that the father was absent.
  • In Pennsylvania, a 7 y.o. boy was nearly starved and beaten to death by his mother, Mary Rader, and grandparents, Dennis and Deana Beighley [2]. Weighing only 25 pounds, the child was desperate enough to eat insects on the porch where he was sometimes kept. Dr. Jennifer Wolford of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Child Advocacy Center characterized the boy as “the worst case of medical neglect that I have ever seen…” Two of the boy’s sisters appeared healthy. A 9 y.o. brother was underweight, but not to the same extent.
  • Raymond Frolander’s life was saved by the 11 y.o. boy he molested [3]. The Florida boy’s father walked in on the sexual battery in progress. He beat the predator severely, then went to the kitchen for a butcher knife. According to the father, he would have killed Frolander, if his young son had not at that point intervened.

It is not unusual for victims to exhibit more concern – more mercy, if you will – for their abusers, than those abusers do for them.

What though are we to make of predators such as these? Our first instinct is to draw back in horror, to conclude that these were not human beings at all. These were wolves. Devourers. Continue reading

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Perfection

Ritual of spiritual cleansing at Hindu temple, Author Frazer Macdonald, Source https://500px.com (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Many abuse victims are tormented by perfectionism.  This is the unrelenting pursuit of perfection.  Perfection and perfectionism are not, however, the same.  One is, in fact, antagonistic to the other.

Perfection as a Standard

Perfection has special significance for abuse victims.  As children, abuse victims come under constant and unjustified criticism.  Harsh criticism may be accompanied by still harsher punishments, penalties far beyond anything a loving parent or guardian might administer for a childish infraction.

With time, victims conclude that perfection alone would satisfy their tormentors.  We strive to achieve that.  In reality, no amount of effort could attain the impossibly high standards set for victims.  But the effort is ingrained in us, as is the self-criticism.  So perfectionism begins.

The Need for Approval

As adults, abuse victims are frequently motivated by a need for approval.  We become “people pleasers”, conditioned “to feel bad about [our]selves and to please, appease, accommodate others” [1A].  Studies show that perfectionists of this type may “exhibit…‘a strong sense of duty, which masks underlying feelings of personal inadequacy’ ” [1B][2].

Dirt and Cleanliness

Sexual abuse can add another layer of torment.  Child victims may be too young to understand what exactly is being done to them, other than that it is a painful violation. The violation is commonly, however, associated with cleanliness issues.  This is especially true when children are accused of being “filthy sluts”, “dirty whores”, and the like.

Having been made to feel “dirty”, children may rub dirt onto their skin and clothing.  They may soil themselves, even if long since potty-trained.  In the alternative, they may wash unceasingly; may bathe and change clothes several times a day.

As adults, the victims of sexual abuse are likely to have difficulties with sex.  They may view sex as threatening and disgusting; themselves as soiled by it.  Some can feel nothing sexually.  Others treat sex as a commodity.  Far too many throw themselves into frenzied sexual activity, in a desperate search for the love of which they were deprived.

Most abuse victims do not grow up to become prostitutes.  A great number of prostitutes (male and female) were, however, abused as children

Washed in the Blood

Verses can be found throughout the Bible which refer to cleansing [3].   These are not concerned with soap and water, but with sin and repentance.  They convey something of the power of God to forgive whatever wrongs we may have done, and “cleanse” or rid us of the evil done to us.

The Bible’s cleansing verses are not meant to suggest that abuse victims are somehow filthy or defiled.  The child victims of abuse – even sexual abuse – have NOT sinned, sexually or otherwise.  And God, above all others, understands the extent to which their adult actions may have been impacted by the sins inflicted on them as children. Continue reading

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Skin Suit

Human skin close-up, Author Montavius Howard, Source https://pixabay.com/photos/skin-brown-skin-skin-up-close-2016480/ (CC0)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

This skin suit that surrounds me, more wrinkled now than any “lawyer suit” I ever owned, is no longer smooth, no longer supple.  It is marred by scars and stretch marks, like the tributaries of some ancient river; has been visited by varicosities, by callouses, hives, rashes, and eruptions too often to count.

But once this skin knew the joy of raindrops.  Once it knew the fever that passion evokes.

This skin suit that envelopes me has been bruised, pierced, incised, and sutured; has been burned by the sun to a poison apple red.

This skin has been stroked and patted, been tenderly groomed, oh so tenderly violated, again and again and again and again – each cell silently screaming in protest, recoiling in horror.

This skin suit of mine has served as a witness to all the best and worst aspects of my life, to the weakness and the strength, the failures and the triumphs; has lain prostrate with pain, overcome by grief, yet risen to see the glory of a new dawn, and lived to praise God for His deliverance.

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19: 26).

Originally posted 3/5/17

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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