Category Archives: Religion

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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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 6 – Restoring the Relationship with God

Open Bible, Author “The Photographer” (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

The abuse experience can warp the lens through which victims see themselves and the world.  It skews even their view of God, since He – perhaps more so than the predator – is blamed for the abuse.

Abuse victims must be permitted to vent the full range of emotions elicited by the violation, if their faith in God and relationship with Him are to be restored.

God’s continuing love for abuse victims is more powerful than any symptoms or shame.  This does not necessarily mean that the scars of abuse will be erased.  Victims are likely to need frequent reminders, both of God’s love and His mercy.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103: 10-12).

” ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ “  (Isaiah 1: 18).

” ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ ”  (Isaiah 43: 25).

Victims might ask themselves whether they would judge another exploited child by the same harsh standards they have applied to themselves; whether the thoughts and behaviors they now characterize as defective on their part would have occurred at all, if they had not been abused.

Originally posed 8/18/13

Of note, the Sex Trafficking Act was this week signed into law.  The “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” (often referred to as FOSTA) creates a new federal offense which prohibits owning or operating a website or other technology platform with the intent to facilitate prostitution.  Penalties can run as high as 25 years in prison. 

Sex trafficking victims may, in addition, bring civil suits against the websites that hosted ads that enabled their trafficking.

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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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 5 – Forgiveness

“The Confession” by Giuseppe Molteni (1838), Gallerie di Piazza Scala, Photographer Artgate Fondazione Cariplo (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

From a human perspective, it is inconceivable that abuse victims would consider forgiving so grievous a violation as abuse.  Only with God’s intervention can abuse victims hope to forgive the perpetrator, and successfully move on with their lives.

Forgiveness begins with a decision to put the violation in the past. It may be necessary to re-address forgiveness as life events bring other areas of unforgiveness to the survivor’s awareness.  This does not mean that the victim should be placed again in harm’s way.

Forgiveness cannot be forced (and does not preclude criminal prosecution). But without it, victims run the risk of being consumed by bitterness. God wants more for them than that.

Originally posted 8/11/13

Of note, Federal authorities have successfully taken down Backpage.com, a classified advertising website repeatedly accused of enabling prostitution and sex trafficking of minors.

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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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 4 – Scriptural Consolation

“Agnus Dei (The Lamb of God)” by Francisco de Zurbaran (c. 1638), San Diego Museum of Art, Photographer Daderot (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

While abuse victims have not sinned, it can be helpful for them to recall that God encourages even sinners. He sent His Son to save, not condemn us.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned…” (John 3: 17-18).

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8: 1).

It is the adversary who condemns the saints, his goal being to paralyze them.  It is his voice that victims hear when the darkness presses in on them, not God’s.  But the adversary is a liar.  Lies are his stock in trade.  Abuse victims are the more vulnerable, since early in life they did not receive the nurturing that God intended.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…’ ” (Revelation 12: 10-11).

Originally posted 7/21/13

Wishing You All a Happy Easter!

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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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 3 – Families

WWI propaganda poster, Author Savile Lumley (PD)

Not all families will be supportive of the abused child. Some will actually blame him/her for the abuse. Victims may be accused of lying or labeled as delusional for making such accusations.  This is experienced by victims as another betrayal.

Victims may, also, be told that they are “dirty” (or be treated by their families as if that were the case).  In effect, victims can be made scapegoats for the very crimes to which they were subjected.

None of this behavior is biblical.

But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matt. 19: 14).

Originally posted 7/14/13

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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To Match the Blood – Part 1

Large bruise as a result of domestic violence, Author Jane Fox (CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

As a lawyer, I spoke from time to time with small groups of other lawyers or lay people about the law.  Several times such talks found me at a Philadelphia shelter for battered and abused women.   I was deeply moved by the experience, memorializing it this way to protect the identities of the women involved:

Initially, I did not know what to expect.  I assumed, if anything, that I would pity these women.  That was not, however, the case.  Instead, I was in awe.

The women, themselves, came in all colors, shapes and sizes.  Those I met ranged in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties.  Some were pretty and petite, others statuesque Amazons.

Some could barely make eye contact, were hesitant to speak.  Others had acquired a hardened demeanor or false bravura to hide their pain.  All were deeply concerned for the welfare and safety of their children.

We spoke about the fact that battered women constitute 25% of the women attempting suicide, and 23% of the women seeking prenatal care at any given time.  We spoke about the fact that children raised in abusive households are fifteen times more likely than normal to become abusive adults (or, themselves, become involved with abusive partners).

We spoke about the spiritual issues faced by domestic abuse victims, and the practical difficulties of making a new life.  We spoke about rebuilding self-esteem, and the lure of false hope that the abusive partner would “change.”

But above all, we spoke about the lives of these women.

They had been beaten, stabbed, burned, locked in, tied up, and chained down.  They had been criticized for being attractive and criticized for being unattractive, instructed what to wear, then punished for wearing it.  They had been struck by tire irons, and thrown out windows.  They had suffered broken hearts, broken dishes, and broken bones. Continue reading

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Voodoo

Voodoo dolls, Author Brendajos70, Source Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/7960800@N04/2959709431 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

An outgrowth of the tribal religions of West Africa, Voodoo originated among Haitian slaves.  The religion varies from place to place, but generally combines belief in a chief god and many powerful spirits with ancestor worship [1][2].

Catholic saints and symbolism were superimposed on the Voodoo belief system, and Catholic hymns, prayers, relics, statues, and candles incorporated into Voodoo rituals.  Though many practitioners of Voodoo self-identify as Roman Catholic, Protestants for the most part consider Voodoo incompatible with Christianity [3].

Tragically, this attempt by slaves to cope with the cruelty and hardship to which they were subjected continues to create victims of its own.

Latarsha Sanders recently stabbed her 5 and 8 year old sons to death with a kitchen knife, subsequently telling Massachusetts police the violence was “Voodoo stuff” [4].  The older child was stabbed 50 times.  Sanders has no known history of mental illness.

Meanwhile, two sisters in a nearby community deliberately burned and scarred a 5 year old girl, and threatened to behead her 8 year old brother, in the course of a Voodoo ritual.

” ‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination…’ ” (Jer. 32: 35).

Many cultures have engaged in child sacrifice – the Canaanites, the Etruscans (predecessors of the Romans), the Carthaginians (contemporaries of the Romans), the Celts, the Maya, the Incas, and the Aztecs to name a few [5][6][7]. Continue reading

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Not Just Victims

Baking utensils, Author Pfctdayelise (CC BY-SA 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 Generic)

“And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes
On you moving.
And if they shout
Don’t let it change a thing
That you’re doing.

Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head high.”

–        “Hold Your Head Up”, C. White, R. Argent © Marquise Songs

A rock song from the ’70s by Argent has special relevance for abuse survivors.  Called “Hold Your Head Up” it is a reminder that we are more than just victims.

But abuse victims, by whatever name, are not known for valuing themselves highly.  To the contrary, we can barely raise our heads, let alone form a realistic view of ourselves.

The abuse to which we were subjected created a web of lies – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love or care.  Trapped in that web, we were denied hope, as the scars (our response to the pain) hardened around us.

Not everything we do, however, will stem from or relate to abuse.  If we focus on that aspect of our experience to the exclusion of all others, we will only enlarge the tragedy, allowing it to engulf our lives [1].

We have relationships, vocations, and beliefs:

  • We are sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. We are friends, lovers, and spouses. We are students, teachers, and mentors.
  • We are social workers, lab technicians, and police officers.  We are doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants.
  • We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

We have habits, preferences, interests, skills, and abilities.  Some of us are neat-freaks; others do not pick up their socks.  Some are dog lovers; others are “cat people”.  Some of us are musical; others cannot carry a tune. A few probably play the banjo. Continue reading

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Long Term

“Sad Boy”, Author Sascha Grosser (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

A new study by the University of Utah confirms that abuse before the age of 5 can continue to have negative consequences decades later [1].

This is no surprise to abuse victims.  We know we cannot simply “snap out” of depression, anxiety, and PTSD despite the well-meaning advice of friends, family, physicians, and strangers alike.  That fact only adds to our sense of isolation.

Researchers found that:

“…those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood.  The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older [2].”

The sad little boy or girl becomes the sad, lonely and/or angry man or woman.  Unfortunately, that anger is often turned inward, becoming another destructive force against which we must battle.

This has nothing to do with will power or self-control, and everything to do with who we were taught to believe we are.  Damaged, deficient, unloved and unlovable — our needs unimportant, our dreams unattainable.  Directly and indirectly, those lessons were driven home until they became part of us.

But the human spirit is amazing.  We somehow survived the onslaught, the dark rain of blows and insults.   Many of us succeeded in the work place.  Some found the internal resources to become artists, writers, and advocates.  Still more became the parents our own parents could not be.

That we continue to wrestle with our demons is no shame.  It is simply part of our reality.

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40: 29).

[1 and 2]  Science Daily, “Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect – Study led by university researcher shows negative effects may persist into adulthood”, 1/16/18, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116222327.htm.

With thanks to Louise Callen

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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Appearances

Child abuse: x-ray of infant with multiple rib fractures, Author/Source National Institutes of Health (PD as work of federal gov’t).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Another house of horrors was uncovered this week, this time in Riverside, CA.  Thirteen siblings were found emaciated, living in dark and stomach-churning conditions – several shackled to their beds – in a suburban tract home that to all outward appearances seemed normal [1][2].

David and Louise Turpin are being charged with dozens of counts of torture, child abuse, and abuse of dependent adults.  Their children range in age from 2 y.o. to 29 y.o.

Journals by the children have been recovered documenting the torture which included starvation, beatings, chaining, repeated strangulation, and refusal to allow the children to use bathroom facilities or bathe for months on end [3].  Many of the children have cognitive impairment and neurologic deficits as a result.  The 17 y.o. girl who somehow managed to escape and call police is so stunted she looks 10 y.o.  Her 29 y.o. sister weighs 82 lbs.

How is any civilized human being to react to this [4]?  Shock and disgust are followed closely by outrage.  How could this happen, we ask ourselves helplessly.

Regulatory Failure

This was depravity of the highest order, beyond the comprehension of most normal people.  But there was at least one gross regulatory failure.

The home in question was for the past 7 years listed by the California Dept. of Education as the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 campus with David Turpin as principal.

Supposedly the Accrediting Commission of Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) conducts a “comprehensive accreditation of public and private schools” in California, at least according to the US Dept. of Education website it does [5].  One cannot help but wonder how “comprehensive” that process was, in this case.

California does not feel it necessary to “approve” or certify private schools which do not provide special education [6].  There is no licensing required by the 3000 private schools listed with the California Dept. of Education.  There are no audits conducted.  California private schools are permitted simply to file an annual affidavit as to their operation.  Teacher certification is, also, optional.

Of course, there were no annual fire inspections conducted here either.  Had there been, this travesty would have come to light sooner.

The Turpins, it should be added, lived for many years in Texas before moving to California.  The abuse of their eldest children would have begun there.

Whether they claimed to conduct a private school in Texas is not currently known [7].  The chances are they did.  Otherwise their children would have been required to attend school (or investigated as truant).

The Human Heart

To say that appearances can be deceiving is an understatement.   If we are to protect our children, we cannot accept banal statements of compliance with the law at face value.  The darkness of the human heart has no limits.  We should by now have learned that.

Woe to you…For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:  27).

[1]  Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Parents arrested after children found shackled and malnourished in California home” by Paloma Esquivel and Joel Rubin of Los Angeles Times, 1/15/18, http://www.gazettenet.com/Parents-arrested-14920013.

[2]  CNN, “ ‘This is depraved conduct,’ DA says of couple accused of torturing kids” by Madison Park et al, 1/18/18, http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/us/turpin-family-investigation/index.html.

[3]  The Washington Post, “Starved, chained and unbathed:  Police describe the lives of 13 siblings held captive in their home” by Marwa Eltagouri, 1/18/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/01/18/13-children-were-starved-at-home-with-some-chained-to-their-beds-police-called-it-depraved/?utm_term=.13a3a36bc663.

[4]  This is the type of horrific situation police, social workers, and child advocates confront on a regular basis.  These professionals experience secondary trauma, as a result.

[5]  US Dept. of Education, California, Private Schools, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/california.html.

[6]  The Edwardsville Intelligencer, “Lawmakers seek home school oversight after 13 found captive” by Michael Balsamo and Kathleen Ronayne of the Associated Press, 1/17/18, https://www.theintelligencer.com/news/education/article/No-rules-for-California-home-schools-where-13-12503357.php.

[7]  The Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) oversees private schools in that state.  See, Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, https://www.tepsac.org/#/home.

 

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