Rotten Apples – Dangerous Apps at the Apple Store

Rotten apple, Author Vitalii Shmorgun, Source https://web.500px.com (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

An investigation by the Washington Post has uncovered more than 1500 complaints of unwelcome sexual behavior on popular apps offered by Apple’s App Store [1].

Children were frequently the target of offensive behavior that included surprise masturbation by adult males and pressure for participants to disrobe.  Along with sexual content, complaints were, also, made of racism and bullying.

The apps investigated were Monkey, Yubo, Skout, Holla, ChatLive, and Chat for Strangers.  These social media platforms allow strangers to connect via video chat.

Apple markets its App Store as a safe setting and claims to carefully review each app.

Tragically, we value commerce over the safety of our children.

[1]  iMore, “The Washington Post:  1,500 instances of ‘unwanted sexual approaches’ uncovered in App Store reviews of random chat apps” by Stephen Warwick, 11/22/19, https://www.imore.com/washington-post-says-it-found-1500-instances-unwanted-sexual-approaches-app-store-reviews-random.

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Filed under bullying, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, racism, Sexual Abuse

The Weight of Sorrow

“Compulsion is despair on the emotional level.  The substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those we believe capable of taking our despair away…Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

For many abuse victims, food takes on an importance far and above its ability to nourish.  We eat our anger, stuff our guilt (misplaced though it is).  We use food both as a reward and a punishment.

The smallest morsel can set in motion a binge.

Weight issues feed into the sense of loneliness and isolation abuse victims already feel.  The life opportunities of which weight deprives us should be penalty enough.  But our losses generate regrets, and we carry those regrets forward, along with the pounds.

Purposes Behind Compulsive Eating

Like drinking to excess, compulsive eating serves two basic purposes.  While ostensibly numbing our pain, it actually recreates the emotional experience of abuse – our fear, our helplessness, our shame, our rage.  And it re-affirms (albeit in a dysfunctional way) that we deserve to have our needs met.

Self-Blame

“We had nothing to do with the reasons our parents abused or left or violated us.  We believed we did because blaming ourselves for the sorrow gave us some measure of control over it.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

Though we were not abandoned, neglected, or abused because of what we weighed, weight issues become a “safe” focus for the emotions associated with our abuse.

We can now blame ourselves for the negative feelings the abuse caused, rather than blaming the loved ones who inflicted it on us.  But the least dieting failure feels like a sin, as well as a defeat. 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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The Mormon Maddoff – Fraud and Financial Abuse

Mugshot of Bernie Madoff, Author US Dept. of Justice, Source http://money.cnn.om (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Shawn Merriman headed an investment firm, and served as a lay bishop of the Mormon Church.  Over a period of 15 years, he scammed $21 million from friends, family, and church members – gaining a dubious title as “The Mormon Madoff” [1][2].

Affinity Fraud

Using a Ponzi scheme, Merriman duped a total of 68 investors.  Exploiting his position as a bishop, Merriman gained the trust of fellow Mormons.  Church members who had invested, then encouraged others to invest.

Like Madoff, Merriman touted his investments as both “exclusive” and secure.   Rather than investing the money he was given, however, Merriman used it to support a lavish lifestyle.

Continue reading

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Finding Ourselves

In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.   He created them male and female, and blessed them…” (Gen. 5: 1-2).

Each of us is made in the image of God, and each unique.  Abuse can bury that knowledge, along with our hopes and dreams.  We can lose ourselves – can feel so downtrodden, so crushed, that we believe we are worthless.  But that is a lie.

The challenge for abuse victims is to find ourselves again.  To find ourselves and reclaim our lives.

A song like Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More” may lift our spirits (a step in the right direction).  Even high heels and red lipstick may help.  Scripture, however, serves as a more reliable guide.

Accepted

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15: 7 NIV).

In Christ, we are accepted.  After a lifetime of rejection, this is an astonishing experience.

Loved

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…” (Eph. 1: 4-5).

In Christ, we are God’s beloved children, members of His own family, selected from the beginning of the world. Continue reading

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Philippine Children in Crisis

Philippine children, Author US Marines from Arlington, VA, Source flickr (PD as work product of federal govt.)

The Duterte Administration of the Philippines has resorted to mass arrests in its war on drugs, and is planning to broaden that hard line approach to include children [1][2].

New legislation would impose mandatory prison terms of up to 12 years on children as young as 9 y.o.  The children of the poor will be most heavily impacted, since they are more likely to join drug gangs in an effort to survive.

The US State Dept. website describes our nation’s relationship with the Philippines as “based on strong historical and cultural links and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights [3].”

According to the non-profit Human Rights Watch, however, conditions at government facilities for children are already inhumane.  This is particularly true at Bahay Pag-asa (“House of Hope”).  Locked in cages, children there suffer from skin infections suggesting inadequate diet and sanitation.

“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ ” (Matt. 25: 36).

[1]  The Defender Magazine, Spring 2019, “Children in Crisis:  A Report from the Philippines”.

[2]  New York Times, “Philippine Law Would Make 9-Year-Olds Criminally Liable” by Jason Gutierrez, 1/22/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/asia/philippines-juvenile-justice-law.html.

[3]  US Department of State, “US Relations with the Philippines”, 7/17/18, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-the-philippines/.

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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.

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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.

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Cycle of Violence

Image by US Marine Corps. in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (ID No. 091016-M-6664G-001) (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Violence in the home greatly increases the chances that children raised in that home will eventually become violent or select violent partners.

The National Youth Survey Family Study followed over 1600 families across three generations.  Nearly 4 out of 5 families where domestic abuse took place had adult children who perpetrated violence against their partners; 3 out of 4 such families had adult children who become victims of crime [1].

In the study, 92% of parents and 81% of their adult children admitted committing an act of violence against a partner.   Similarly, 66% of parents and 36% of their adult children admitted being victimized.

The acts of violence children witnessed included pushing, grabbing, slapping, hitting with an object or a fist, beating, choking, threatening with and/or use of a weapon, and attempted murder.

According to Violence against Women in Families and Relationships, “Globally, wife-beating is seen as justified in some circumstances by a majority of the population in various countries, most commonly in situations of actual or suspected infidelity by wives or their ‘disobedience’ toward a husband or partner.”

And so the tragic cycle of violence repeats itself.  Blood begets blood.

Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9: 6).

[1]  Crime Victims Institute, “Generational Cycles of Intimate Partner Violence in the US:  A Research Brief” by Kelly Knight, et al, 2013, http://www.crimevictimsinstitute.org/publications/?mode=view&item=40.

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Demons

“Litigatio Christi cum Belial” by Jacobus de Theram (1461), Bavarian State Library (PD)

My demons and I are well acquainted with one another.  We have grappled together for over half a century now.  Some days I tell myself I have won a battle.  But another always looms.  And my losses have gradually taken their toll.

There are many times I have hated myself for failing yet again – for the very fact the scars of my abuse remain.  Those are the most dangerous times, the dark mouth of hell yawning before me.

The temptation to give up, give in, can be inviting.  But a light of hope continues to shine, constant if at times faint.  It is the promise of Salvation. Continue reading

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