Category Archives: Sexual Abuse

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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“Letter to My 14 Year Old Self” by Marie Williams

My dear friend, Marie Williams, went home to be with the Lord on Easter Sunday 4/21/19.  She died of cancer.

Marie Williams was an incest survivor.  Despite a brutal childhood, Marie had a generous and loving heart, enormous faith, and a great sense of humor.  She raised a daughter, Melanie, who was the center of her life.

Many of you know Marie’s sensitive poetry from her blogs Come Fly with Me https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com/ and Blow Me Out of the Water https://riceandpease.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/running-away/?c=159#comment-159  .  Below is one of her posts.

Marie will be greatly missed, but she remains an inspiration.

Dear Marie

Yes, you, come on now, try not to let things get you down too much. I promise life will get better. I know that you’ve had it really rough and I know that you wish your first suicide attempt at age 11 had worked, but it didn’t and that’s because you are here for a reason. I know that you can’t see that now, because all around you is chaos, but you are a divine spirit and you need to know that.

Try not to internalize the pain. I know that you feel that you have no-one to confide in, but you do. Speak to your grandfather. I know he is no longer here. I know he died in 1959, but his spirit is with you. Speak your pain and he will hear and he will try to smooth the path for you and make life a little easier. I know you’re thinking, “rubbish!” But seriously, he came to help you that painful night when you were 11. It was him you saw, when he hovered over you. It was not a figment of your imagination. He came to make sure those pills did not work.

You’re destined for great things Marie. Look at Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou – they suffered too but look how they have turned their lives around. They have have used their abusive pasts to build a solid framework in which to change their lives for the better. OK, so you’re never going to be Oprah or Maya with their very public profile, but you will be Marie blogging on WordPress, “sharing, hoping to inspire and motivate” others.

I know you think I’m crazy, and that this will never happen. Yes at 14, with a mother who clearly finds you an irritation and a father who gets a kick out of battering you, sending you to school with bruises on your face and body, with the explanation “If they ask you what has happened to you, tell them that you fell over some wire in the backyard”, makes the above paragraph seem like the ramblings of a mad woman, but honestly, you will survive.

People that you don’t know now, will be reading your poetry and will write to you telling you how much they love what you have written. People all over the world in France, Austria, USA, Australia will be commenting on your poetry.

There will be something called the Internet which will allow you to connect with others in a way that you can’t now. The world will be a smaller place in terms of contact and there will be vast opportunities for you to grasp and take advantage of.

I love you Marie and I want to take care of you in the only way I can. This is why I am writing to you, aged 14. I want to give you hope. I want to let you know that I am there for you.

Yours sincerely

(A much older) Marie xx

Originally posted 11/8/15

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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Moving Day

I awake from a dream about moving day.  In the dream, a friend and I are both dancers in the chorus of an off-Broadway musical.  Poor as church mice, we fantasize about a stage success that will bring us fame and fortune. 

In costume, she is graceful and evocative.  In life, she is warm and enthusiastic.

My friend has approached me to ask for help in relocating.  I have never been to her apartment before.  We run a gauntlet of threatening catcalls from men, as we approach the place. 

One actually forces his way into the apartment, but my friend fends him off with a drug dose she has stashed above the door.  She does not lock the door on his departure.  I feel uneasy about this, sure he will return. 

The apartment, itself, is beyond shabby – a tiny, windowless room, exposed to the weather.  The place is furnished, if one can use the word, with bits and pieces of broken objects.  My friend treats these tenderly, as if they were priceless.  Meanwhile, she must rely on a nearby restroom, for lack of an alternative. 

She has no packing boxes, and has not begun to sort through what she will take and what she will leave behind.

It strikes me that this dream is a metaphor for the after-effects of child abuse.  Often, the exterior we present to the world is like a play.  We dress in costume, adopt the mannerisms we see around us, in an effort to fit in. Continue reading

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Blue Sunday

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Today is Blue Sunday – a day of prayer for the victims of child abuse, and those who attempt to rescue them.

We hope and pray.  But it is difficult to escape the grinding reality of child abuse, to remain in any way positive despite the fact that innocent lives are daily being lost.

Another such tragedy came to light this week, when the body of 5 y.o. AJ Freund was found in a shallow grave [1].

The boy’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund, have been charged with his murder.  After subjecting the child to an icy shower, the couple proceeded to beat him to death, then reported him missing to cover their tracks.

Neighbors tied up blue ribbons while the search for the boy was still ongoing.

However, the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services had been involved with the family for years.  AJ, you see, was born with opioids in his system.  DCHFS later investigated two more allegations of neglect, documenting horrific living conditions.

AJ’s younger brother has temporarily been removed from the home.  Meanwhile, JoAnn Cunningham is expecting another child [2].


[1]  Chicago Tribune, “Parents of missing 5-year-old AJ Freund charged with murder after Crystal Lake boy’s body found in shallow grave” by Amanda Marrazzo et al, 4/25/19, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-aj-freund-crystal-lake-20190424-story.html.

[2]  Chicago Tribune, “As AJ Freund’s pregnant mother faces murder charge in his death, what happens when her baby is born?” by Angie Leventis Lourgos, 4/25/19, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-aj-freund-crystal-lake-boy-mother-unborn-baby-20190425-story.html.

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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Ice Cream

Strawberry ice cream, Source sxc.hu, Author Lotus Head, Johannesburg, South Africa (Free use per OTRS ticket #2007062510004765)

“I scream
You scream
We all scream
For ice cream”

– “Ice Cream” by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert King

We have all at one time or another over-indulged, whether in a pint of our favorite ice cream or a family size bag of chips.  And will again.  Food may not be a substitute for love, but it is readily available.

The need for love and connection is closely related to that for sustenance.  The need to reproduce is equally primal.  Human beings could not have survived without these needs being met, which is why they are so deeply ingrained in our nature.

Weight, however, is tied to self-loathing in our culture.  What American woman has not stood naked on the scale, waiting with bated breath for the dial to stop?

As many abuse victims know, the shame of abuse can be transferred to our weight.  The ongoing battle with weight provides us a permanent opportunity to vilify ourselves. Inversely proportional to our weight, our self-esteem can, quite literally, be measured by the pound.

When the damaged self-esteem resulting from abuse and the pressure on American women to be a certain size coincide, eating disorders frequently result.  Anyone acquainted with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating knows these are often hidden.  The shame of these disorders coupled with the shame of abuse can be overwhelming.

There is worse. Some of us have eaten out of the garbage can.  This practice is not limited to the homeless among us [1].  There could hardly be a more apt symbol of low self-esteem. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 3 – A Fresh Perspective

Sylvester Stallone in film “Rocky VI”, Source https://commons.wikimedia.org, Arthur Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis (PD as work product of federal govt.)

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all…

– Emily Dickinson

Abuse skews the perspective we have on our lives.  But our viewpoint (and the labels we choose to apply to our experiences) can make a surprising difference.

What others may call “failures” can be seen as new avenues of exploration or stepping stones to the next success.

  • Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb.  When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail so often, Edison responded that he had not failed.  He had merely ruled out ways that would not work.
  • Babe Ruth was famous for his home run record.  But for decades Ruth, also, held the record for strikeouts.  He hit 714 home runs, but struck out 1330 times in his career.  Ruth said about this, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life.  That is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

The Chance to Start Again

We can view failure as a chance to start again, with more knowledge than we had before [1].

  • The industrialist Henry Ford, the department store magnate RH Macy, and the animator/studio head Walt Disney all filed for bankruptcy, at some point.  Yet they are considered exemplars of innovation whose vision changed the world.

Not Counted Out Yet

“I believe in pink.  I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.  I believe in kissing.  I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.  I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.  I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

– Audrey Hepburn

True, we face enormous challenges as abuse victims.  True, we may be exhausted from a decades-long battle with the after-effects of abuse.  But we should not count ourselves out too soon. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

“Blue Suede Shoes” sheet music at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Source Flickr, Author Sam Howzit (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

“Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes…”

– Elvis Presley, Blue Suede Shoes

Discouragement from those significant in our lives often accompanies abuse.  Sadly, we may adopt the negative opinion others have of us based on their own shortcomings.

But bad advice is simply misdirection – not an infallible predictor of our future.  The important thing is that it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • The author of a beloved 19th Century girls’ novel worked as a maid, seamstress, companion, and teacher.  Thankfully, Louisa May Alcott found her true calling, and left us the classic Little Women.

Taught to Fear

  • Lucille Ball said that all acting school taught her was to be frightened.  Ball, of course, became one of the most popular comediennes in America, starring in such sitcoms as I Love Lucy.  She was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning four (along with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Abuse victims are taught to fear.  Change is viewed as negative, and the new as dangerous.

This attitude passed on to us – if we remain bound by it – makes progress impossible, and success unattainable.  Genuine opportunities are missed, since their negative consequences always appear to outweigh any benefit.

Meanwhile, real risk is not accurately assessed.  Danger is not perceived, so we rush headlong into its arms – sometimes in the very effort to escape our past [1].  When harm follows (frequently in the form of further abuse), we question our judgment and become ever more fearful.

Trained not to trust our abilities, we cannot conceive of overcoming the obstacles in our path.  Yet, it must be added, a remarkable number of us do overcome them.  Ironically, our pain is sometimes the impetus for change.

Without guidance, support, or even much confidence, we ignore the odds against us, and persevere regardless. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 1 – A Slow Start

“The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, Source http://www.dvidshub.net (VIRIN 170302-F-EZ530-010), Arthur Airman 1st Class Donald Hudson (PD as work product of federal gov’t)

“Today you are YOU,
That is TRUER than true.
There is NO ONE alive
Who is YOUER than YOU!”

– Dr. Seuss

As abuse victims, most of us are familiar with failure.  This is not necessarily because we have failed.

Many victims are successful in the work world.  Work may actually help us to deal with the abuse we once endured.  It can provide a focus for our energies, sometimes to the point of exhaustion [1].

What we experience, however, is a persistent feeling of having failed in the most important arena of all; having failed at love.

This feeling stems, in part, from a mistaken belief that we “deserved” the abuse to which we were subjected (surely, if we had been lovable, we would not have been abused, goes the thinking); and, in part, from the failed relationships resulting from that abuse.

But all human beings experience failure.  Life is a process of trial and error for everyone. A baby tries to stand, and falls. S/he tries again, and falls again.  Eventually though s/he learns to walk, then run.

A Slow Start

Some of us have a slow start.  We may, in fact, have been advanced for our years – struggling to develop without the nurturing and encouragement we should, in all fairness, have been provided.

Still, for argument’s sake, let us say we make a slow start.  That is no indication of how we will finish.

  • One little boy did not speak until comparatively late.  His parents feared he was mentally impaired.  A teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”  The boy was expelled from secondary school for being “disruptive,” and was refused admittance to a prestigious university.
    We recognize now that Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.  He is regarded as the father of modern physics [2].

Rejection

With or without a “slow” start, we all experience rejection eventually.

  • Teachers quickly grew impatient with Thomas Edison’s inquisitiveness. One called Edison “addled.”  Edison went on to invent the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the light bulb.   Altogether, Edison held over 1000 patents.
  • Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook.
  • More than two dozen publishers rejected one children’s book, before it reached the public.  The author, Dr. Seuss, ultimately wrote more than forty others, including such favorites as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Continue reading

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