Of Ogres and Onions, Part 1

“The Cat Facing the Ogre”, illustration from Puss in Boots, based on a drawing by Walter Crane (PD-Art l Old-100)

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers.  Ogres have layers.”

Shrek, DreamWorks

Almost any American parent will recognize the quote (above).  It is from a conversation between the main character and his donkey sidekick in the children’s film Shrek.  The statement is meant to convey the complexity of ogres.

Change

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate” (Rom. 7: 15 NLT).

Change – especially change for the better – is difficult for human beings.  Even the Apostle Paul complained of this.

The problem is not weakness of character.  It is our flawed nature, and the very complexity with which God made us (Ps. 139: 14) [1].  Nearly all our actions have multiple layers of causation and meaning (many of these unconscious).

What this implies for abuse victims is that a single psychological insight on our part is not likely to be support an overnight transformation.

That is not to say insights are insignificant.  Even when painful, they give us better understanding of (and better control over) our lives.  As important, insights are cumulative.  If we are patient and persistent, change will come.

Expectations

Our expectations for ourselves must, however, be realistic.  Even those who were never abused encounter challenges in life, and problems achieving their goals.  It is the human condition in a flawed world.  Weight loss programs and gyms have made millions off that fact.

We must not measure ourselves against a behavioral ideal that may be impossible for anyone to attain, abused or not. Continue reading

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Discarded

Celtic cross, Inisheer, Aran Islands, Ireland, Author Mith (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory” (1 Cor. 15: 43).

A mass grave has come to light in picturesque Galway, Ireland.  This grave was not, however, left by Bronze Age warriors or Celtic chieftains.

Containing the skeletal remains of over 750 children, this grave was left by a group of Catholic nuns who operated a home for unwed mothers in the town of Tuam from 1925 – 1961 [1].

The children buried here are thought to have ranged in age from 35 fetal weeks to 2-3 years.  They had been in the care of the Bon Secours (French for “good help”).  If the little ones perished, their bodies were placed in an abandoned sewer system to save on the cost of a coffin.  No solemnities.  No markers.

The story was not entirely unknown.  In the 1970s, some children playing where the home had stood were shocked to find human bones inside an old septic tank.  The presence of these bones was reported to the local church.

A priest advised that the site was likely a mass grave dating from the 19th Century potato famine.  Prayers were said.  The septic tank – and the truth – were covered up again.  Residents on their own erected a small shrine.

It was an amateur historian, Catherine Corless, who discovered that only two of the children who died at the unwed mothers home were ever buried in consecrated ground.  Those two were orphans.  The rest were illegitimate, born out of wedlock.

Clearly, both church and lay authorities had to be aware of the practice of discarding the remains of illegitimate children.  Death certificates were filed.  Yet no undertaker buried the child of an unwed mother in over 30 years’ time.  The bodies of hundreds of children simply vanished.

Corless repeatedly met obstacles in her search for the truth.  However, she persevered.  The Irish government has launched an investigation.

Thus far, there has been no assertion of infanticide by the Bon Secours.  One can only hope.

[1]  Daily Beast, “The Amateur Historian Who Uncovered Ireland’s Mass Grave of Babies” by Tom Sykes, 3/4/17, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/04/the-amateur-historian-who-uncovered-ireland-s-mass-grave-of-babies.html.

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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Rescuing Ourselves

“The Rescue” by John Everett Millais (1855), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (PD-Art l Old-100)

There was finally a point in my teens when I realized that I would never be rescued from sexual molestation [1].

The shock of that revelation was overwhelming…as if all my trauma had been condensed into a single instant.  It felt, at that moment, as if I had been struck in the chest by a sledge hammer.

Trauma Beliefs

Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs [2].  Often, such trauma beliefs are not articulated.  They may never be identified and consciously brought to mind.

But trauma beliefs can be enormously destructive – not only damaging our self-image, but crippling us.

Here are a few versions of such beliefs:  I am stupid; I am ugly; I am unlovable; I do not deserve to be cared for; I must do everything perfectly, or I will be rejected; I should be punished; I will be abandoned by everyone I ever love.

Self-Hatred

Deep inside, I concluded that I was unworthy of rescue, because I would never be the woman my mother was.  I would never be as kind, gentle, or generous as she was.  Most especially, I would never be as vulnerable or petite.  This translated into self-hatred.

That I developed weight issues in high school seemed “proof” of my deficiency.  Clearly, I had an innate flaw that went through to the bone.  So it appeared to me.  I became a perfectionist to offset this.

Acting Out Trauma Beliefs

Weight problems can be a source of torment and discouragement, especially in our culture.

Those of us with problems involving our weight try diets, weight loss programs, and gyms.  We buy expensive exercise equipment, and gadgets guaranteed to change our dimensions.  Some of us even have surgery, and still the weight comes back.

Weight issues are the symptom, not the disease.  Weight issues are a constant source of shame which is why, with some part of ourselves, we cling to them.  They reinforce our trauma beliefs.  That these false core beliefs were laid down so early in our lives gives them added strength.

Perfectionism is likewise a harsh taskmaster.  Perfectionism (another way of acting out trauma beliefs) insures a sense of inadequacy which is the reason it is so tenacious.  The bar is constantly out of reach.

What these two have in common is that they preserve the feelings we had as children.  Those feelings have simply found a new focus. Continue reading

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Trafficked, Part 2

Lithograph of Vincent van Gogh's

Lithograph of Vincent van Gogh’s “Sorrow”, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Photographer/Source pic (PD Art-old-100)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Four unnamed women who allege they were forced into prostitution at a Maryland hotel have brought separate suits against the hotel where events took place [1][2].  The plaintiffs maintain that the staff of America’s Best Value Inn either knew or should have known that human trafficking was occurring on the premises.

Money Damages

This is among the first suits where money damages for human trafficking are being sought by victims from a “deep pocket” third party not directly involved with the trafficking.

The suit alleges the hotel failed to keep its premises safe.

The owner disputes this, saying that staff noticed nothing suspicious.  After the prostitution ring was uncovered, hotel procedure was though changed.  Rooms are now cleaned after three days, whether there is a “Do Not Disturb” sign in place or not.

Kidnapped

The women’s story is chilling.  As they describe it, the four were kidnapped; injected with heroin; then forced to engage in sex for money with men brought to the hotel.  All proceeds went to Cornelius Briddell, the head of the trafficking operation.

The women were rescued after one of the victims managed to message her boyfriend on Facebook.  Briddell was convicted in 2015, and sentenced to 145 years in prison.   The judge characterized his actions as barbaric.

Claiming to be a man of God, Briddell actually made a show of “forgiving” his victims. Continue reading

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Trafficked, Part 1

“White Slave” by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (c. 1913), Source Journal Publication (PD-ArtlOld-100)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The website Backpage.com made tens of millions of dollars running “adult” classified ads for escorts and erotic services (many offering children).  Faced with a Senate investigation, a grand jury inquiry in Arizona, and two federal suits in California, the site removed such ads earlier this year [1A].

That has not stopped the trafficking of children.

Amber Alert

Labels like “Amber Alert” and “Lolita” (intended to signal the involvement of children in sexual activity) may have been replaced with phrases like “100% young” and “oh daddy can I be your candy” [1B].  But ads like those under investigation continue to run in the dating section of the site, as well as elsewhere online.

Children in the Sex Trade

The majority of children involved in the sex trade come from poor and dysfunctional families.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 35% of the underage prostitutes charged nationally are African American.  In some geographic areas, that percentage is even higher.

While it is uncertain how many children are forced into prostitution annually, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates there was an 800% increase between 2010 -2015 due to the increased sale of children for sex online.

Missing

“Scared and cold,
first night on the streets
Your body hurts
from your head to your feet…

Gotta dollar-fifty,
every penny gotta spend
Make a wrong move…Boom –
your life comes to an end

-Daniel, 16 y.o., “Run Away” [4]

According to the National Crime Information Center, there are some 435,342 children currently missing in the United States.  While custody disputes account for a large percentage of the children reported missing,  the suspicion by law enforcement is that the remaining children – at least those still alive – are being trafficked. 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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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day message, Author Serge Melki (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for abuse victims.  Mothers may have been the non-offending parent in our lives – the parent who provided us some measure of solace, but ultimately failed to rescue us from abuse.  Or they may have been the parent who tormented us.

Either way, our grief on Mother’s Day can be palpable.  No relationship is more important than that with our mothers.  But unresolved emotions may, also, swirl:  confusion, love, anger, rejection, emptiness, resignation, empathy.

Self-recrimination has no place among these.  No child in an abusive situation is equipped to ask why.  Evil is the all-pervasive environment in which such children are raised.

Though entirely innocent of their abuse, children are engineered to blame themselves for it.  That misguided sense of responsibility often extends far into adulthood.

Even when questions are asked in later years, non-offending parents can rarely supply their adult children with satisfactory responses:

  • “I did not know that my child was being molested/beaten/burned/starved/locked in the closet/berated/ignored.”
  • “I was young, and did not know how to cope.”
  • “I was abused and powerless, myself.”
  • “I had no way to support myself and the children, if I left him.”
  • “I blamed my child for the abuse, but I know better now.”
  • “I thought my child would forget.”

Continue reading

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Beautiful in His Sight

“Face of Christ” by Claude Mellan (1649), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (PD)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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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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Absent, Part 3 – Children Having Children

Four month old gripping father's finger, Author Clarence Goss, Flickr

Four month old gripping father’s finger, Author Clarence Goss, Source Flickr “Got You Daddy” (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

  • “Black Man Fathers 34 Children With 17 Different Women”
  • “Man who fathered THIRTY kids with 11 different women says he needs a break from child support”
  • “Man who fathered 23 children with 14 women sent to prison after missing more than $500,000 in child support payments”

Tragically, these headlines are not fictional [1][2][3].  The problem of absent fathers is caused not only by the sexual mores now prevalent and the vanishing nuclear family, but by children having children.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Col. 3: 21).

Contraception

The availability of contraception increased the number of teenage girls having sex, and pushed back the age at which girls became sexually active.

Lack of information about sex and birth control became less an issue, as high schools worked the subjects into their curriculum.  Unfortunately, that did not address the real obstacle.

Condoms are readily available for purchase.  But girls can be dissuaded from insisting they be used.  The next girl will not be so difficult, they are told by their partners.  In a world where sexting is a casual pastime, that argument carries some weight.

Needless to say, inner city high schools now come equipped with nurseries, while not books.

AIDS

If nothing else, the AIDS epidemic should have frightened men into using condoms.  Instead, in the inner city they began having sex with girls as young as 9 or 10 years of age.  Since these girls were virgins (unlikely to be infected by HIV), the dilemma was neatly, if callously, resolved.

The well-being of the young girls in question did not enter the picture.  Their desire to be loved actually set the trap into which they fell.

Statutory Rape

Impoverished, overlooked, and neglected, these girls suddenly basked in the attention of men anywhere from 5 to 20 years their senior.  Willing victims of statutory rape join their numbers everyday.

Unprotected sex is the passport to gifts and status.  Pregnancy is an achievement.  A baby will provide unconditional love.  So these children think, assuming they think at all.

Their naïve hopes are soon enough dashed.  Rarely does the “honeymoon” period last beyond the pregnancy.  Babies cry.  They have to be fed, have to be changed.  And diapers cost money.  So do cribs, strollers, car seats, safety gates, and the rest.

Abortion is often used as a belated form of birth control, when romance sours.  Grandmothers (when they are available) can wind up raising these babies [4]. Continue reading

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