Category Archives: Community

A Voice for the Poor – The Parallels Between Poverty and Abuse

Poverty in Chicago, IL (1974), Author/Source Danny Lyon for National Archive and Records Administration (NARA Record 1709309; NAID 555950), Original Source Environmental Protection Agency (PD as work product of federal govt.)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31: 8-9 NIV).

Poverty and abuse have much in common.

The traumatic and repetitive nature of child abuse, and the huge imbalance of power between adult and child, can leave profound psychological scars on victims – scars that may include PTSD, depression, and anxiety to name a few.

Often, victims are left with a fear of authority as adults.  The impact of poverty is surprisingly similar.

Fear of Authority

Their hopes chronically dashed and their pleas for justice routinely ignored, the poor frequently assume further effort on their part will be futile.

People who have been repeatedly downtrodden – deprived of basic necessities, cheated of their rights by abusive landlords and the host of other scam artists who prey on the poor – will forget that they have a voice, and throw in the towel (already exhausted). Continue reading

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Witness to Evil

Children at prayer, Author Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/99247795@N00/3750019119 (CC BY-SA 2. 0 Generic)

The Catholic Church sex scandal is well-known.  Tragically, it is not isolated.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses – considered a cult by mainstream Christian denominations for their failure to recognize the full divinity of Christ – maintain what is believed to be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters [1][2][3].

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the non-profit which oversees the more than 8 million Witnesses, has repeatedly refused to comply with Court orders to release that database.

The Watchtower’s Office of Public Information indicates that its policies on child protection comply with the law.  Barring a confession, however, no member can be formally accused of committing a sin without two credible witnesses.  Of course, sexual abuse is not generally a public event.

When child molestation is uncovered, the Witnesses do not routinely notify police [4].

Substantial jury verdicts have been handed down against this religious organization.

The Amish and Mennonites

Investigation into sexual abuse among Amish and Mennonite communities has revealed abuse as “an open secret spanning generations” [5].  At least 52 cases have come to light in the past 20 years, across seven states.  But that number does not reflect the true scope of the problem.

Victims who report rape and incest may be sent to “mental health” facilities or threatened with excommunication. Continue reading

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Domestic Abuse in a Time of Corona

Indications are that the coronavirus pandemic is increasing domestic violence [1A].

Arrests for domestic violence rose by 27% in Portland,OR in March. Domestic assault and battery reports rose by 21% in Seattle, WA and 22% in Boston, MA during the same period.  The Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline has experienced its highest call volume in 20 years.

“Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, and all of us are feeling a loss of power and control right now.”

-Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of National Domestic Violence Hotline [1B]

With stay-at-home orders in place across the country, the isolation victims typically endure has only been heightened.  Fear of infection, job and financial losses exacerbate the stress on victims and abusers alike.  The fact that gun sales have  spiked is not helping the situation [2]. Continue reading

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“Commercial Surrogacy” by Kaeley Triller Harms

Abdomen of a pregnant woman, Author Canwest News Service, Source https://article.wn.com/view/2009/03/19/Vitamin_B12_deficiency_linked_to_birth_defects/, (PD)

The state of Washington legalized commercial surrogacy in 2018, despite opposition by children’s rights advocates [1].  A list of the states which allow surrogacy in one form or another can be found at https://www.creativefamilyconnections.com/us-surrogacy-law-map/.bi .

“Last year I sat in stunned silence at a WA State Senate hearing concerning the matter of commercial surrogacy.  The proposed bill contained 55 pages of legislative text full of demands and bloviations about alleged parental rights.  Its goal was to legalize commercial surrogacy without limit through the entire state.

I listened as concerned citizens pointed out the many dangerous loopholes in the bill and requested amendments that would safeguard both the women and children from potential abuse, but every request was categorically shot down as unnecessary.

There were no limits whatsoever to prevent abuse:

  • No required background checks for prospective parents (Convicted pedophiles could commission children.)
  • No limit to the number of children any given person could order. (One millionaire from Japan has fathered at least 13 children via surrogacy.  His expressed goal is to father at least 1000 over time)
  • No limit to the amount of compensation any given surrogate can receive (Hello, money-hungry human traffickers)
  • No requirements for surrogates to be WA State residents (Again, traffickers?)
  • No language preventing mentally disabled women from being exploited for commercial gain

In all 55 pages of text, there was but one single solitary reference to the needs of the child.  The rest was emotionally manipulative language revealing a deep seated sense of entitlement and a devil-may-care attitude toward the myriad ethical implications on the people most greatly affected by surrogacy- the women and children.”

Continue reading

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Alleged Aboriginal Abuse

Indigenous Australian playing didgeridoo, Author Graham Crumb, Source gallery.imagicity.com/ (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

ABC in 2006 aired a show that alleged significant child sexual abuse among Australian Aboriginal communities [1].

In response, the Australian government commissioned an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory. That, in turn, resulted in controversial legislation known as “the intervention”.  Many believe this did more harm than good.

The risk of Child Protection System involvement for Aboriginal children in Australia between 1986 and 2017 was some 7 times that of non-Aboriginal children [2].  Much of this was due to the extreme poverty in which Aboriginal communities lived.  Illness, drug addiction, and violence were related issues.

Racial bias on the part of government officials often led to harsh policies.

As a result:

  • Aboriginal children were more than twice as likely as non-Aboriginal children to experience high levels of distress.
  • Aboriginal children were less likely than non-Aboriginal children to receive formal education, and 18 times more likely to be admitted to youth detention.
  • Aboriginal children had a shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal children (boys 10.8 years less, girls 8.6 years less). Continue reading

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Permanent Record

School books, Author KGV (Free Art License)

Some of us are old enough to remember the threat from a teacher that some minor disciplinary infraction might go on our “permanent record”.  The staff of Berkeley Heights Elementary School would have done well to heed that warning [1].

Amber Pack became concerned when she found bruises on her 6 y.o. daughter, Adri, and the little girl resisted returning to school.  A small recording device proved informative.

Christina Lester, a teacher at Berkeley, and two of her aides, Kristin Douty and June Yurish, were recorded threatening to knock the teeth out of the children in their care or withhold food from them.  To top things off, the school advised Pack to destroy the recording once they learned of its existence.

When prosecutors failed to press charges, Pack shared the recording on Facebook where it went viral.

West Virginia Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey subsequently filed suit against the Berkeley County Board of Education; Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent, Margaret Kursey; and Berkeley Heights Principal, Amber Boeckmann; along with Lester, Douty, and Yurish.  Their permanent record will be one of shame.

Adri has since been enrolled in a new school and is doing well.

[1]  People Magazine, “Ex-teacher, aides charged after mom secretly records abuse” by Harriet Sokmensuer, 8/19/19, https://people.com/crime/former-west-virginia-teacher-aides-charged-abuse-recording.

Of Note:  Registered sex offenders have filed suit in federal court to prevent Georgia Sheriff Gary Long from posting signs on their lawns warning children not to “trick or treat” there.  For details, see https://www.wthr.com/article/georgia-sex-offenders-file-suit-over-sheriffs-no-trick-or-treat-signs.

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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Forced Panhandling

“The Old Beggar” by Louis Dewar (1916) (PD-Art, PD-Old)

Leaders of the non-denominational Imperial Valley Ministries appear to have devised a new form of clergy abuse.  They are alleged to have imprisoned dozens of homeless, forcing them to panhandle 9 hours/day on the church’s behalf [1].

The church’s programs are billed as drug rehabilitation.  Destitute men and women were lured with offers of free food and shelter, along with promises of the funds to return home.  Instead, victims were required to adhere to strict rules, and denied food if they disobeyed.

Church members held them captive in group homes with deadbolts, taking their identification documents from them.  In some locations, windows were, also, nailed shut.

Meanwhile, church leaders stole Food Stamps and Welfare benefits from victims, threatening to remove children, if their parents tried to leave.  Others were told their loved ones had abandoned them and only God loved them.

Whatever this was, it was not Christianity.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to Me in that day, ‘…have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7: 21-23).

[1]  USA Today, “A church needed money, so members held homeless people captive and forced them to beg, prosecutors say” by N’dea Yancey-Bragg, 9/11/19, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/09/11/church-held-homeless-people-hostage-forced-them-beg-feds-say/2285143001.

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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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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Footprints in the Snow

Jackson Park, Chicago, Field Museum Library, Source Flickr (No known copyright restrictions)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) has arrested 69 y.o. James Morris, Jr. on charges of sodomy, second and third degree sex offenses, child abuse, and perverted practice [1].  Further charges are possible.

ICAC investigators received a tip that Morris was sexually abusing young teens.  An investigation disclosed multiple victims over some 27 years.  A search warrant at Morris’ home revealed computer and other electronic equipment believed related to the production of child pornography.

Terror and Seduction

Maryland Criminal Law, Section 3-306 prohibits sexual acts without the consent of another by force or threat of force; where the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; and where the victim is under 14 y.o.  Criminal Law, Section 3-307 explains that threats may involve death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious physical injury, and kidnapping.

These statutes give us some idea of the terror children who are sexually exploited can experience.  Children can, also, be lured and seduced by a “friendly” predator.

Inadequate Community Response

This travesty was ongoing for decades.  Some in the community, it seems, suspected.  Until now, no one took it upon themselves to register a complaint.

Footprints in the Snow

Pedophiles do not send up smoke signals.  They cannot be identified by the grimy raincoats they wear.  Like footprints in the snow, however, the evidence of their passing is the imprint left on the lives of the children with whom such predators have come into contact. Continue reading

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Mangers

Nativity scene, Author Anna Anichkova (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2: 4-7).

Every day 2715 children are born into poverty in America alone [1].  And every day 22,000 children across the globe die from poverty-related illnesses and deprivation [2].

We are surrounded by mangers.  Surrounded, yet 2000 years after that first Christmas we still decline to see.  Why spoil this festive season? Isn’t there another sale, another party somewhere?  Pile those gifts high!  We need no encouragement to put Saturn back in Saturnalia.  We can manage that all on our own.

If pressed on the point, many of us would echo Scrooge’s sentiment:  “Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”  Who brought all these children into the world anyhow?  Why should we be saddled with their upkeep?  Who gave them the right to impose on our comfortable lives?

“…[W]ho made lame beggars walk, and blind men see[?]” to use Tiny Tim’s words.  As Christians we ought to know the answer to that.  We ought to live the answer to that everyday.  If we did, no billboards would be necessary urging that we put Christ back in Christmas.  He would already be there.
___
[1]  Children’s Defense Fund, Research Library, “Each Day in America,” http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/each-day-in-america.html.
[2]  Global Issues, “Poverty Facts and Stats,” http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats.

Originally posted 12/22/13

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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