Category Archives: Politics

Shelter

“Unaccompanied minors” at south Texas border, Author US Customs and Border Protection (PD as work product of US Dept. of Homeland Security)

Levian Pacheco of Casa Kokopelli – one of eight federally funded private shelters Southwest Key operates in Arizona – has been accused of sexually molesting at least 8 migrant boys between the ages of 15 and 17 at that facility [1].

Fernando Negrete, also employed by Southwest Key, has meanwhile been charged with groping a 14 year old migrant girl [2].

The Arizona Dept. of Health has cited Casa Kokopelli for failure to complete background checks on employees.  Yet, Southwest Key has received over $1 billion in funds for its shelters.

Police nationwide have responded to hundreds of calls reporting sex crimes against immigrant children held by the government at shelters.

Tragically, this is not the only situation in which illegal immigrants are vulnerable to exploitation.  Fleeing poverty and violence, an estimated 17,000 to 19,000 immigrants are trafficked into the United States each year [3]. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Politics, Poverty, Prostitution, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Slavery

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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The “P” Word

Donald Trump (2016), Author Michael Vadon (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Donald Trump (2016), Author Michael Vadon (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches” (Prov. 11: 16).

Sexual assault has in recent weeks become part of the political dialog.  News media are politely tiptoeing around the crude language Donald Trump employed on the topic, without actually repeating it.

That a candidate should have engaged in this criminal behavior (and still have felt compelled to crow about it, at the tender age of 59) is simultaneously ludicrous and despicable.

However, that some men touch women, without their consent, comes as no surprise to women.  Countless women have been subjected to identical behavior, without consequence to the men responsible.

I am an incest survivor.  The stranger who grabbed my crotch at the beach when I was 12 y.o. could not have known that.  But he calculated – quite accurately – that I would be too stunned to speak of the violation.  In that, I was not alone.

Thousands of vulnerable women and girls experience groping, and either have no recourse or know of none.  The inappropriate touching may not last long; it may not rise to the level of rape.  But the sense of powerlessness leaves a permanent scar.

Whether the assailant is a family member, friend, or stranger, the behavior clearly establishes his dominance.  When do fathers, brothers, and sons learn that this is allowed, even encouraged? Continue reading

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Dirty Little Secret

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Armed Forces have for years now instructed our soldiers to ignore the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan leaders viewed as allies of the United States [1].  Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, Jr. told his father, “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.”

In an effort to keep this dirty little secret, the Navy (which oversees the Marine Corps.) has decided to discharge Major Jason Brezler for sharing his concerns with fellow Marines, using an unclassified server [2].

A similar case arose in 2011, when Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland struck an Afghan police official for the rape of a teenage boy.  In that instance, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)intervened, and the Army allowed the Green Beret to stay in the service.

According to former Special Forces Captain Dan Quinn, “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did – that was something village elders voiced to me.”

Quinn was relieved of his command, and pulled from Afghanistan after beating an Afghan commander who kept a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.  Quinn subsequently left the military.

There is yet another layer of complexity to the situation.  The Taliban is using child sex slaves to infiltrate Afghan forces, and carry out deadly assaults [3].  Lance Cpl. Buckley (above) and two other Marines were killed by a group of boys living on base with an Afghan police commander. Continue reading

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A Little Life

Baby holding toy, Author Asha Lall (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Donald Trump is now the presumed Republican candidate for US President; and — despite Bernie Sanders’ optimism — Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate.  These are major developments.  One way or another, they will ultimately impact world events.

We watched the story covered from every angle, examined in minute detail.  What we did not see much about, on the evening news, was the death of a toddler in Utah.

Eighteen month old Ethan Antes had been left in the care of his stepfather, Codey Jolley.  The child was found floating facedown in the tub, with trauma to his upper body.

Police have charged Jolley with abuse homicide [2].  Ethan had sustained injuries on two earlier occasions, after being left alone with his stepfather.

While momentous events were unfolding on the national stage, a little life was lost.  We cannot know what impact that little life might have had, given the chance.

Nor can we know what impact all the other lost lives might have had — Jahi Turner or Malachi Golden in North Carolina [3][4], Charlie Brame in Florida [7], Jeida Torres in New York [8], or two unnamed little girls in Oklahoma and Arizona [5][6].

But those lives mattered.  They mattered every bit as much as the lives of politicians and celebrities do.  No little life should be lost.

But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18: 16).

[1]  Fox 13 Now, “Family remembers toddler who may be victim of child abuse homicide” by Kiersten Nunez, 5/3/16, http://fox13now.com/2016/05/03/family-remembers-toddler-who-may-be-victim-of-child-abuse-homicide.

[2]  Fox 13 Now, “Millcreek man faces child abuse charges; 18-month-old has died” by Mark Green, 4/30/16, updated 5/1/16, http://fox13now.com/2016/04/30/millcreek-man-faces-child-abuse-charges-16-month-old-not-expected-to-survive.

[3]  Fox 8, “Stepfather arrested in NC in death of 2-year-old”, 4/19/16,  http://myfox8.com/2016/04/19/stepfather-arrested-in-nc-in-death-of-2-year-old.

[4]  Fox 46, “Mother charged in death of young son, day after stepfather charged”, 11/2/15, updated 11/3/15, http://wwww.fox46charlotte.com/news/local-news/43529838-story.

[5]  News OK, “Stepfather arrested in death of 2-year-old in Norman” by Jane Cannon, 8/6/15, http://newsok.com/article/5438504.

[6]  Fox 10, “Police investigating death of young child; stepfather charged” by Brian Pryor, 6/5/15, http://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/2480066-story.

[7]  NY Daily News, “3-year-old Florida girl, raped, beaten by new stepfather before death: police” by Rachelle Blidner, 11/26/14, http://nydailynews.com/girl-3-dies-raped-beaten-stepfather-police-article-1.2025585.

[8]  NY Daily News, “Social workers gave apartment the ‘OK’ day before Brooklyn girl was beaten to death by stepdad at homeless shelter” by Caitlin Nolan, Greg Smith, Tina Moore, 10/20/14, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/man-beat-brooklyn-girl-death-claims-escape-punishment-article-1.1980588.

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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History

“This House is a sanctuary; a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty…”

–        Aaron Burr

Imperfect though it is, the US Congress stands as a testament to representative government, an august body which has given rise to great men and women.  Names like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and Abraham Lincoln once rang out in these halls.

To the nation’s shame, the name Dennis Hastert is included in the roster.

Hastert served as the 51st Speaker of the House of Representatives (1999-2007).  He might have been known to history for that fact, might have left a positive legacy, except for one thing.  Hastert is, also, a serial child molester [1].

Four of his victims chose to come forward.  There are believed to be others.  Hastert admitted to molesting the boys decades ago, as a high school wrestling coach in Illinois.  He was sentenced this week for having paid $1.7 million in “hush” money to one of them.  The statute of limitations has run on the actual abuse. Continue reading

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Mirrors

“Girl before a Mirror” by Pablo Picasso (1932), (Fair Use)

In this political season, there is a great deal of emphasis on image. Candidates craft their images with care, choosing just the right setting, just the right music, just the right wording for political ads, campaign photos, and sound bites.

These carefully crafted images are not necessarily a true reflection of the candidate’s character – more like a carnival house of mirrors, with everything distorted.

What about the images abuse victims have of themselves? How accurate are those?

One crucial distinction between the images politicians design for themselves, and those abuse victims carry over from childhood, is that victims do not get to choose their images. In large part, those are crafted by the adults around them.

However, when the mirror is cracked, twisted, and deformed, so is the image reflected in it. Continue reading

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Innocents – Lost Along the Way

So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every [Hebrew] son who is born you shall cast into the river…’ ” (Ex. 1: 22).

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under…” (Matt. 2: 16).

Nearly four thousand years ago, a pharaoh ordered all male infants born to an ethnic minority drowned. Seventeen hundred years later, a king ordered all male children aged two and under slaughtered.

Innocents are still being slaughtered. Some die quickly by sword or gunshot, some die slowly by disease and starvation.  And some die at the hands of those who should love them.

A powerful ruler attempted to exterminate an ethnic minority. But God brought forth a deliverer, Moses, and the nation Israel was born. A cruel king attempted to defend his throne against a babe born in a manger. But God brought forth Jesus Christ, the Redeemer for all nations and all peoples on the earth.

In the end, good triumphs.  There are all too many casualties lost along the way.  But good triumphs.  That is worth holding onto.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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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Faking Normal

A plank in the 2012 platform of the Republican Party called for illegal immigrants to leave the United States of their own accord. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate that year, took quite a bit of flack for supporting the approach (grandly titled “self-deportation”) [1].

But this is not really a post about illegal immigrants.

What abuse victims have in common with illegal immigrants is that we both self-monitor. We are, in other words, inclined to observe ourselves closely in the effort to project an acceptable image, an appearance of “normalcy” and control, whatever the turmoil within.

“Travel Caution,” Author Jasonctillman (CC BY-SA-3.0 Unported)

By itself, self-monitoring is not a bad trait. Even people who have never been abused worry, from time to time, whether their feelings and responses are normal. We are taught from childhood to play nicely with others, and not run with scissors. Those unwilling to adjust their behavior to society’s norms are likely to be aggressive and uncompromising.

For abuse victims, however, self-monitoring involves more. For us, it provides camouflage, and is the tool which allows us to fake normal.

Self-monitoring is a natural response on the part of victims long berated for their thoughts and actions, for their very existence. Victims cling to it, rather than trusting themselves to behave in an appropriate manner. That is understandable. Like illegal immigrants, we would prefer to go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, ongoing assessment of our own performance distances us from the present moment, depriving us of real enjoyment and the zest of living. Every thought, every word, every action must be guarded, as we continuously analyze and re-analyze ourselves in the attempt to “fit in”.

While constant self-monitoring deprives us of spontaneity, it does facilitate acceptance by others, at least on a superficial level. Self-scrutiny to such an extreme can, however, become an obsession. We may inadvertently craft a new form of bondage for ourselves, censoring every breath [2]. Continue reading

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Kidnapped by Boko Haram

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.”

– “Meditation XVII” by John Donne (1624)

WARNING: Graphic Images

The extremist group Boko Haram has since 2009 led a brutal insurgency in Nigeria with the twin goals of imposing Sharia law and establishing an Islamic regime. Boko Haram is known to utilize child soldiers; engage in the forced conversion, castration, and beheading of non-Muslim men and boys, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage of women and girls.

Mary Patrick was one of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 [1]. The horrors she faced during four months of captivity included cannibalism, the murder of her older sister, and repeated rape by as many as five men at a time.

Given a Muslim name and forced to recite verses from the Quran, over and over, Mary began to lose her identity. Thankfully, she managed to escape before it was too late.

Why the World Matters

Why should this matter to American women? Why should it matter to abuse victims, in particular?

Many abuse victims are likewise brutalized. This tends to focus our attention inward, on short-term survival. But there is a great deal of pain in the world…not ours alone. The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are just one example.

Abuse victims understand pain. That others, too, have suffered should not demoralize us. Rather, it should motivate us to reach out to one another.

Isolated by abuse though we have been, we are part of the world. We have a responsibility toward the world. And the exercise of that responsibility may actually prove healing to us.

Connection

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” as it was known killed an estimated 75-200 million men, women, and children.

The dead grew so numerous that mass graves had to be dug. Venice and other cities banned the ringing of church bells during funeral processions. The sound was thought to discourage the living.

During one outbreak, the poet and clergyman, John Donne, wrote that no man is an island. We are all connected. That is how Christians see things or should. We are connected to one another – whether abuse victims, plague victims, or the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Leaving the Past Behind

No one can blame victims for seeking to forget their experience of abuse. We long to blot abuse off the face of the earth, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, much as we may desire to leave the past behind, we are often bombarded with unwelcome reminders of it [2]. The ongoing barrage of triggers can feel like defeat; the flashbacks, like daily fresh wounds in a war that has gone on for years [3]. We simply cannot move beyond the pain.

While recovery is not a matter of will power, confronting our demons may help us cut them down to size [4]. And using our experience to benefit others can give meaning to our suffering.

Outward toward the World

If we can manage to direct our attention outward toward the world, we may find that what we have suffered has actually increased our empathy for the suffering of others. Their suffering is personal for us, not merely political.

In turn, they may have lessons they can share with us.

Amazingly, Mary Patrick says that her captivity strengthened her faith. “Before, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t read [the] Bible, I didn’t pray. But now I go to church everyday…I am thankful for my life.”

[1] See, Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, “Trained to Kill – Learning to Forgive”, August 2015.

[2] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently accompanied by intense flashes of memory. These flashbacks are triggered by sounds, smells, people, places, thoughts, and feelings which call to mind the traumatic event. Flashbacks can cause physical and emotional reactions, including a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, and profuse sweating.

[3] Coping strategies for dealing with triggers include deep breathing, mindfulness/grounding techniques, exercise, relaxation and self-care, writing, art, music, and prayer. The support of friends and loved ones can be extremely valuable.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Collection, “Prolonged Exposure vs. Supportive Counseling for Sexual Abuse-Related PTSD in Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Edna Foa PhD, Carmen McLean PhD, Sandra Capaldi PsyD, et al, 12/25/13, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/collection.aspx?categoryid=5862.

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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