Category Archives: Physical Abuse

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.

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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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Grace

Light in the clouds, Author Axel Kristinsson of Reykjavik, Iceland (CC- BY-2.0)

“Do not be discouraged.  You…[may] not have the power to relieve yourself of sorrow or grief or pain.  But Our Lord did [have that power] on the Cross. He could have turned the crown of thorns into a garland of rosebuds…He was tempted to shorten His agony, as those at the foot of the Cross taunted [Him]…But He did not come down.  It is human to come down, but it is divine to hang there.”

Our Grounds for Hope, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Jesus suffered and died to restore the relationship between God and man for us, a relationship sin in its many forms had fractured [1].  His sacrifice bought our freedom from sin.  We can throw those shackles down.

But believing ourselves included in Jesus’ work on the cross can be a special challenge for the victims of abuse.  Often, we mistakenly take on the abuser’s guilt – feeling “unworthy” of Salvation, as if we had somehow brought on the molestation or “deserved” the abuse.

Many of us are prone to workaholism.  We strive past the point of exhaustion, in the belief our best efforts would not suffice.  It never occurs to us that Salvation might not be dependent on our efforts, but rather Christ’s.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned…much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5: 17).

There is no qualification standard for Salvation in Christ.  He meets us where we are, even if we are broken and lost.  It was for the broken and lost He came.

Originally posted 2/16/14

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Raising Sons

Portrait by Joshua Reynolds of Elizabeth Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, with her son (c. 1765), Source https://hoocher.com (PD-Art, Age-100)

Raising children is an enormously challenging endeavor, under the best of circumstances.  Human beings are complicated creatures.  Abuse adds dark forces to the mix.  It shapes us as children and impacts the parents we become.

Modeling Behavior

Parents attempt to model the behavior they want their children to adopt; strive to give their children the things they, themselves, never had.

If we are to raise sons who do not abuse the women in their lives, we must – first and foremost – protect them against exposure to abusive men [1].  By this I mean not only men who might molest them, but men who treat us (and them) badly.

Consciously and unconsciously, boys take their cues from the men in the lives.  This is only natural.  It is not to say, however, that we as their mothers have no influence.  We have tremendous influence, not only through what we say but what we do.

Children are observant.  They watch us closely.  They see how we react under pressure, see the choices we make in our own lives.  And they seek to imitate us.

Teaching Abuse

The example we set is important.  When we submit to abuse, we teach our sons – however inadvertently – that abuse is acceptable.  When we tolerate abuse by men in the public eye, we teach our sons that women are not worthy of respect.

Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches…who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp…who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (Amos 6: 4-6).

The politicians involved in tawdry sex scandals; the men in power who harass and assault women as a matter of course; the athletes who treat women as playthings; the men who commit date rape, who view quaaludes and rohypnol as expedient means to an end; the college students who consider themselves entitled to sex with blindly intoxicated coeds; the men who cheat regularly on their wives (not to mention those who batter the women in their lives to death) were all once boys.

All sons. Continue reading

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