Category Archives: Community

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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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Community, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse

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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Filed under Abuse of Power, Community, Poverty, Religion

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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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Community, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

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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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Community, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Mangers

Nativity scene, Germany (early 20th Century), Author Andreas Praefcke (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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Filed under Christianity, Community, Justice, Poverty, Religion

Scandal…Yet Again

Scales of Justice with emblem of Holy See, Author Ktr101 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Just when the dust appeared to have settled, the Catholic Church sex scandal has expanded to a new venue.  This time the setting is Australia.  The proportions are massive.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has uncovered the widespread abuse of children by religious schools and other institutions [1].  Most of those suspected are Catholic priests and religious brothers.

Tens of thousands of children were impacted.  While the exact number of victims cannot be known, the abuse extended across generations.

The Commission’s official report reads, in part:

“It is not a case of a few rotten apples.  Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.  In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person.  The problems have been so widespread, and the nature of the abuse so heinous, that it is difficult to comprehend.”

More than 4400 victims have come forward and more than 4000 institutions been implicated.  In numerous cases, the commission found those in leadership were aware of the abuse, but failed to take effective action. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Community, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

“Cycle of Abuse” by Mary Mattison

“Children sleeping in Mulberry Street” by 19th Century reformer Jacob Reis (1890) (PD)

The history of child abuse in all its forms would astonish many.  It leaves little hope to be vanquished, considering in many countries it is deemed “culture”.  Although we can not stop child abuse in its entirety, we do have the power to help save one child at a time in America, and hope for humanitarian efforts to continue their fight for children around the world.

The life of Mary Ellen Wilson started an increased awareness for the need to protect children.  She was born in 1864.  When her Mother became  widowed, she sent Mary to boarding school, but could not continue the payments.  By the age of two Mary Ellen was placed in foster care, suffering the abuse for eight years.  Although neighbors heard the cries, and saw the condition she lived in, they did not come to her aid, but thankfully one concerned woman could not forget her. Continue reading

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Hostile Territory

Staged scene of bullying at Pres. Errázuriz Regional Institute (IRFE), Author Diego Grez (GNU and CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

A security camera inside Carson Elementary School in Ohio recorded the assault on an 8 y.o. boy by a fellow student in a restroom.  Other children are believed to have struck and kicked Gabriel Taye as he lay unconscious, then stepped calmly over him. Two days later, the boy hanged himself [1].

Impact of Bullying

The victims of bullying are more likely to feel disconnected from their peers, self-isolate, and perform poorly in school [2A].  They can have low self-esteem, feelings of emptiness, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Physical problems, also, occur. Victims may have headaches and stomach aches, problems sleeping, and difficulty concentrating – all contributing to higher absenteeism (school avoidance) [2B].

In extreme cases, victims may self-harm (via cutting, alcohol, or drugs) and/or attempt to take their own lives.  Tragically, some like Gabriel Taye are successful.

School Safety

Which begs the question:  Are schools keeping our children safe?  The evidence strongly suggests they are not.

An investigation by the Associated Press uncovered an astounding 17,000 official reports of sexual assault by students in elementary and secondary schools over a four-year period [3A]. Continue reading

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Filed under bullying, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Community, Neglect, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault

Absent, Part 4 – “Gangsta” Culture

Author Roxe (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Author Roxe (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity…” (Titus 2: 6-7).

So called “gangsta” culture, also, feeds into the problem of absent fathers in the inner city.

Gansta culture (no longer confined to a single race) embraces a super-macho image which prizes male power and gang loyalty above everything.  For many, gangs take the place of family which is one reason they command such fierce loyalty.

The merest slight, even if unintended, may be perceived as disrespect.  Disputes are resolved by violent means.  The domination of women is glorified, which is why misogynistic lyrics are common in gansta rap.

The truth is that the boys fathering children never knew a father either.  The grown men acting like boys are displaying their immaturity – not their strength.  A large ego is a fragile ego.

The victimization of women has always been a way for men to vent their frustration with a society they felt robbed them of their due.

Community Impact

There is a negative impact from absent fathers, not only on individual lives, but the whole community.

“For a variety of reasons, including the lack of jobs, equal education and crime, many of those communities are now gripped in deep violence and fear.  Strong, positive, hard working men are there, but in too many situations are not as visible or engaged with their kids or the other kids in the community.  It is as if they leave home, go to work, come home and lock themselves inside their homes in front of TV sets.  Not as many are walking the streets in the evenings, standing at the corner by the school bus stop, sitting in the church, or volunteering at the park or school.”

– Michael Knowles, “The Need for Male Role Models in African-American Communities” [1]

Make no mistake.  There are good black fathers, men who want to be involved in the lives of their sons and daughters.  Men who are sober, employed, and devout. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Community, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

Gratitude

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Author Jon Harder, (Gnu Free Distribution License, and CC-BY 2.5 Unported)

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Author Jon Harder, (GNU Free Documentation License, and CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“ ‘Thank you’ more complex than at first viewed when examined thoroughly through the lens of the human experience.”

– Marie Williams, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/guest-blog-post-thank-you-in-marie-williams-exact-words/

That statement about the phrase “thank you” has great significance.

Those of us deprived by childhood abuse of the basic necessities of love and nurture may well be deadened, emotionally.  The human connection that the words “thank you” signify may actually feel threatening to us.  Sadly, that connection has been foreign to us, outside our experience.

At a minimum, we are likely to doubt we have anything of worth to offer the world…anything to prompt thanks from others.

But deprivation heightens the capacity for gratitude.  Skip a single meal.  Sleep a single night on a park bench or huddle against the cold, under a makeshift cardboard shelter.  Then go home again to a full plate and a warm bed, a solid roof over your head.  See whether your perspective has not changed.

The smallest kindness is magnified a thousand times over for abuse victims.  A word or gesture of concern feels like rain on the desert to us.  A thoughtful act can sometimes save a life.

As victims (who, incidentally, make up a large percentage of the homeless), we may not be able to express our thanks, not adequately.  But we will treasure that simple phrase or gesture as if it were precious gold.

To us, it is.  The words “thank you” acknowledge that we have been seen, that we exist.  They imply, above all, that we are human and worthy of acknowledgment.  That is healing balm to our wounds, even if we cannot vocalize a response.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16: 34).

Wishing you all a Happy Turkey Day!

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

 

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Community, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women