Category Archives: Physical Abuse

Life

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139: 16).

Abuse survivors have not always experienced life at its best.  But life remains a priceless gift.  We must cherish it.

Mother Teresa (standing all of 4’11” and weighing less than 100 lbs) worked among the poorest of the poor in India.  Yet she maintained a positive view of life.  The poem below is by her.

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

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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A Long Silence

Broome County Courthouse, Binghamton, NY, Author Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Statutes of Limitations are time limits under the law within which accusations can be criminally prosecuted or civil damages pursued.

Purpose

Statutes of Limitations serve a dual purpose.  They encourage investigation while evidence is still available and memories fresh.   And they allow society to move forward in an orderly fashion, with old disputes resolved.

Tolling

Murder has consistently been viewed as the exception.  The crime is considered so grave by society that it warrants investigation whenever uncovered…even after many years.  The question we must ask is how closely other allegations parallel this.

Most states suspend or “toll” their Statutes of Limitations to allow injured minors to reach majority.

Many states have made special provisions for child sexual abuse cases – in part because of the breadth and heinous nature of such crimes, in part because victims are often reluctant to come forward for years, and in part because there may be repressed memories involved [1].

A Long Silence

Systemic suppression of the truth – as, for instance, by the Catholic Church – may result in a long silence.  That does not ensure societal peace…much less justice.

[1]  National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “State Civil Statutes of Limitations in Child Sexual Abuse Cases”, 5/30/17, http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-civil-statutes-of-limitations-in-child-sexua.aspx.

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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A Good Life

Bleeding hearts (dicentra spectabilis), Author Wildfeuer (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Most parents want a good life for their children.

Good parents want their children to grow up in peace and security; want them to express their personalities, and develop their talents; want them to become fine young men and women, capable of loving others and contributing to the world.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was not such a parent.  Authorities in New Mexico have found eleven malnourished children in rags, at a derelict compound in the desert [1][2].

The makeshift compound, surrounded by tires, had no electricity or running water.  Wahhaj though was heavily armed.  Evidence suggests that he and another man, Lucas Morten, were training the children to conduct school shootings [3].

There were, also, three women present at the compound.  Preliminary indications were that the women had been brainwashed.

The children, themselves, range in age from one to fifteen.  What are thought to be the remains of Wahhaj’s four year old son were found buried nearby.  Evidently, Wahhaj had believed the boy (who was physically and mentally handicapped) possessed by demons. Continue reading

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The Rights of a Child

Children being treated by Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets after chemical attack.  Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement which lays out the social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights of children everywhere.  Since its adoption in 1989, the Convention has been signed by 194 countries.  But its interpretation and adherence vary widely across the globe.

Under the Convention, every child – boy or girl – has the right to life and survival; to protection against violence, abuse, and neglect; and to an education.

Right to Life

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb
” (Ps. 139: 13).

The American Convention on Human Rights declares human life as beginning at conception.  Abortion is, however, legal for some 60% of the world’s population.

The United States has performed over 45 million abortions since 1970 [1].

China performs approximately 23 million abortions annually [2].  Although pre-natal sex determination is now illegal there, it is thought that sex-selective abortions (heavily weighted against females) are a key factor in China’s widely disproportionate number of men.

Right to Survival

Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, ‘Talitha, cumi,’ which is translated, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’  Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age” (Mark 5: 41-42).

Over one third of child deaths worldwide are related to malnutrition [3].  Another 2  million children or more die annually of readily preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia.

Protection against Violence

Thus says the LORD:  ‘Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor.  Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place’ “ (Jer. 22: 3).

During the 10 year period from 1986 – 1996, it is estimated that 2 million children were killed; 4-5 million disabled; and 12 million left homeless by war and conflict [4].  As recently as April of this year, Pres. Bashar al-Assad of Syria again killed dozens of his own men, women, and children in a chemical attack [5].

As many as 300,000 youngsters worldwide have been compelled by government or rebel forces to become child soldiers [6].

In the United States, 2710 children were killed by guns between 2014 – 2017 [7].  This ranged from gang violence to school shootings [8A].  Nearly 6000 children are treated for non-fatal gunshot wounds in this country, annually [8B].

Continue reading

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Facade

Jonathan Allen and his wife, Ina Rogers, of Fairfield are accused of torturing 10 children. Photo: Solano County Sheriff's Office

Photo: Solano County Sheriff’s Office

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Like the infamous David and Louise Turpin, Jonathan Allen and Ina Rogers of California are alleged to have tortured and mistreated their 10 children. 

The children, aged from 6 months to 11 years, were “continuously punched, strangled, bitten, shot with BB guns, hit with sticks and bats, subjected to ‘waterboarding’ and splashed with scalding water [1].”  They bear scars and the evidence of broken bones.  One child under the age of 14 has disclosed sexual abuse. 

Garbage, feces, and rotten food were found scattered around the home the family occupied.  However, Allen and Rogers maintain their innocence.  Allen declared to the press, ” ‘I’m not 100% perfect, I’m not perfect, no one is perfect.  But I am not an animal, I’m not a torturer and I’m not a monster.  I’m just not [2].’ ”

There are many good men in the world, more than those of us abused as children or adults dare believe.  But there are others masquerading to the world as good men, and leading a double life.

These men can pass as good employees.  They may work hard; may dress appropriately, wear a suit and tie.  They can live in nice neighborhoods.  Their homes may look attractive from the outside.  They may even attend church, be considered pillars of the community.

Such men maintain a façade of normality, all the while taking out their hostilities and frustrations at home.  Jonathan Allen seems to have been one [3].   But his carefully crafted facade has been shattered.

Despite what he is thought to have done, Allen is not an animal.  Animals do not torture their offspring.  No, Allen is not an animal.  He is a moral agent, responsible for his actions, whether he chooses to acknowledge that responsibility or not.  His self-delusion cannot shield him from guilt.

But neither are his children animals.  They did not deserve treatment like this.  Not even an animal would have deserved that.

[1][2]   Angeles Times, “New Charges Against Father Who Allegedly Tortured His 10 Children” by Brittny Mejia, 5/24/18, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fairfield-father-20180524-story.html.

[3]  Allen did have a 2011 domestic violence conviction.

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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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 3 – Forgiveness

“Drunk Father” by George Bellows (c. 1923), Source Library of Congress (Digital ID cph.3g04623) (PD-Art, Old-70)

We continue this series on abuse in Christian marriage with the widely misunderstood topic of forgiveness.

Christ came to forgive sins (Matt. 26: 28; Rom. 5: 28).  He repeatedly forgave sinners (Luke 7: 44-50), using the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” even from the cross (Luke 23: 34).

Christians are called on to love their enemies, to forgive those who persecute them (Matt: 5:44; Luke 6: 27-29).  The Lord’s Prayer contains the line, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6: 12).

“Forgiveness Requires that a Woman Return to an Unsafe Marriage”

But the assertion that forgiveness requires a woman to return to an unsafe marriage is patently false.

Forgiveness and trust are distinct from one another.  A Christian woman may choose to forgive her husband’s caustic comments, his violence and brutality – electing not to waste any more of her life in bitterness or regret.  She need not live in fear under his roof, and run the risk of additional harm to herself or children.

“There Is No Escape from Marriage but Death”

Many an ignorant minister has described submission to the point of death as the hallmark of a Christian woman, and divorce as more harmful to children than a childhood spent in an abusive home.

However, the biblical right of self-defense supersedes any duty of “submission” to an abusive spouse.  Women and children were not ordained as sacrificial lambs to the tempers of men. Continue reading

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The Abusive Workplace

Photo Courtesy of One Connecticut

You work for someone vain, self-centered, and vindictive.  Someone who knows less about the job than you do.  You put in longer hours than he/she does, but his/her name is the one on the door.  You do the work, but he/she gets the credit.  You can’t remember the last time you received a raise.  And still you keep trying to please.

Sound familiar? A recent study indicates that the American workplace is “grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile” [1].

We may view our work as a calling, enjoy our chosen field, and meet some wonderful people in that field.  Or, depending on the economy and our particular situation, we may not have much choice as to our job [2].

But we stay at some jobs far longer than we should, a fact which can negatively impact our confidence, our self-esteem, our relationships, and our health.  Why?  An abusive childhood can be a contributing factor.

Abuse can impact not only our personal, but professional lives.  There are many reasons victims tolerate abusive work environments and dysfunctional bosses.

Abusive Management Style

Does your boss manage at the top of his/her lungs?  Does he/she rant and rave over the least mistake…sometimes over no mistake at all?  Is scathing sarcasm his/her favorite style of communication?

Just as parents, spouses, and lovers may be bullies, narcissists, paranoiacs, or other abusive personalities, so too can bosses [3].

No Limits

Even work that is intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging can by physically draining.  In an ideal world, we would not have to choose between inspiring work and livable working conditions.  But ours is not, unfortunately, an ideal world.

As abuse victims, we set no limits for ourselves, exceeding all reasonable expectations.  We take work home nights, to the shore with us on weekends, and away on vacation. There are always more files, more cases, more projects.  Paperwork has a permanent place on the dining room table, and the nightstand beside our bed.

That fact facilitates avoidance.  We have no time for a personal life.  The endless hours we spend at the job, and the emotional investment – the very problems at work – serve to keep personal issues at bay.

The lack of limits, also, feels familiar.  We were raised in a setting where love required self-sacrifice to the point of self-destruction.  Reasonable boundaries were not allowed during childhood.  So we do not recognize them (and do not establish them) as adults.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism can play a role, as well.  Victims may strive to achieve unattainable levels of perfection.  That we fail demonstrates, again and again, to us what we mistakenly assume is our inherent “deficiency”.  In effect, we are compelled to re-enact the emotional experience of our childhood. Continue reading

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Dry Bones

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” ‘ “ (Ezek. 37: 12).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel had a widely known vision in a valley of dry bones.

The corpses there had been scorched by the sun, picked over by vultures and jackals.  God spoke to Ezekiel and asked if the bones could live again, to which Ezekiel replied that only God knew the answer.  God then instructed Ezekiel to prophecy, and life was restored to what was a vast army.

Though Bible commentators agree that the bones were a symbol of Israel, this passage has a highly personal meaning for me.

Many times in my life I have been at the end of my strength.

As an abuse survivor, I have walked lonely beaches at night, and cursed hope for drawing me forward toward another dawn.  As an advocate for the poor and a lawyer responsible for the welfare of clients and staff, I have fought many a losing battle.  As a woman with chronic health problems, I have sat in emergency rooms at 3AM, and more than once lain prostrate in public restrooms, unable even to call for help.

Rarely did God make Himself known to me, in these circumstances.  Unlike Ezekiel, I saw no visions, heard no voices.  But at all times God was present.  It was from God my strength derived, and He that carried me through the worst ordeals. Continue reading

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Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/7462740970/, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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Topsy Turvy

“Desolation of Tamar” by James Tissot (c. 1899), Jewish Museum (Accession No. X1952-328), Source http://thejewishmuseum.org/collection/26535-desolation-of-tamar (PD-Art, Old-100)

“Topsy turvy
Wake me
I’ve had enough
Topsy turvy
Don’t know
Which way is up
Or down
Tears on the ground”

– “Topsy Turvy” by Family Force 5

Child abuse victims are often scapegoated for the disharmony within their families.

The narrative fabricated is that child victims are troublemakers, “bad seeds”.  According to this distorted view, victims are by nature disobedient and rebellious, trying the patience of their loving families.  They deliberately prompt family arguments, and “deserve” to be punished for the hurt they cause.

Outrageous as it may seem, the needs of child victims – for food, shelter, and comfort – are seen as an unreasonable burden in dysfunctional families.  Victims are viewed as provoking the abuser to act as s/he does. In the case of sexual abuse, child victims are seen as “tempting” the adult, therefore, responsible for the abuse.

This is all a fiction – a false explanation for the dysfunction which allowed the abuse to occur, in the first place.  It is, in effect, the rationalization of the abuser.

Any negative emotions the abuser may experience, in connection with his/her moral transgression, are projected onto the victim.  The Bible story of the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon illustrates this.

But she [Tamar] answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not force me…Do not do this disgraceful thing!’…However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.  Then Amnon hated her exceedingly…” (2 Samuel 13: 12, 14-15).

Other members of the family may buy into the narrative, in self-defense.  That does not, however, give it validity.

In a topsy turvy way, the very opposite of the distorted family narrative is true. Continue reading

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