“Alice, Milton and Oscar: Making Sense of It All” by Marie Williams

https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/alice-milton-and-oscar-making-sense-of-it-all/

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Punishing Ourselves, Part 2 – Emotional Hunger

“Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors Brought to Jacob after Joseph Is Sold into Slavery” by Diego Velazquez (1630), El Escorial (PD-Art l Old-100)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3: 21).

Human beings inherently crave connection.  When our basic need for relationship is denied, abuse victims can develop an intense emotional hunger.  Some of us attempt to satiate that hunger with food, others with possessions, still others with sex.

But these will not satisfy us.  So the emotional hunger returns, and the cycle begins all over again – each time destined to fail.

Punishment and Reward

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age.  Also he made him a tunic of many colors.  But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him…” (Gen. 37: 3-4).

The reward – whether of food, material things, or sex – becomes punishment.  Each stop gap measure has negative consequences.  Each leaves us feeling empty.  Our sense of worthlessness resurfaces with renewed force.

Then the reward used to stem our emotional hunger becomes, itself, a source of shame.  It takes more and more food/things/sex to bring us even temporary relief.  Our desperation increases.

Punishment and Self-Forgiveness

“ ‘…inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25: 45-46).

Consciously or not, we ache for forgiveness, someone to take the guilt away.  And there is Someone who can do that.  In fact, He longs to do that.  He died on a cross to do that.

But we did nothing to “deserve” abuse.  We do not, therefore, need forgiveness for our abuse.  What Jesus Christ does to relieve us of the false guilt for which we have been punishing ourselves is reveal a truth it would have been too painful for us to accept as children, i.e. that our parents and caregivers were the ones at fault.

Where their love failed us, His will not.  And the life He offers us is everlasting.

This series began last week with “Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation”

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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Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation

Isolation cells at Fremantle Prison, Australia, Author Gnangarra (CC-BY-2.5-AU)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’ ” (Gen. 4: 13).

Though there are some hideous punishments inflicted on children, I will not be focusing on those here.  I want instead to talk about the punishment we inflict on ourselves.  The two are linked.

As abuse victims, we come to believe ourselves deficient, sinful, unworthy of love.

We may be told this directly by curses, blows, and cigarette burns, or indirectly by food, warmth, and shelter denied; by affection, comfort, and encouragement withheld; by the absence of laughter, except at our expense; by the absence of protection from sexual predation; and, above all, by the absence of hope.

Whatever the details in our case, we come to see ourselves as guilty.  We may not be able to name the sins we committed to “deserve” our abuse.  But we are certain of our guilt.

It is as if we bear the mark of Cain without ever having committed the crime.

Punishment and Deprivation

My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lam. 3: 17).

Those of us who were deprived of the basic necessities as children may deprive ourselves the same way as adults.

We cannot keep the refrigerator full or the pantry stocked.  We have difficulty using the new sheets, and may prefer sleeping on the couch or floor.  We resist purchasing a favorite food or appealing item of clothing for ourselves.  We take time off from work only reluctantly for a vacation.

Collateral to this, abuse victims who were physically and/or emotionally starved may hide food (or money and valuables) in secret spots around the house or yard.

While it may be painful to us, none of this behavior is a sign of “insanity” on our part.  It is simply a residual scar of the abuse inflicted on us, the rational response to irrational circumstances. Continue reading

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The Side of the Angels

“Archangel Michael Tramples Satan” by Guido Reni (c. 1630), Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, Author Andrew Graham Dixon for Yorck Project (PD-Art l Old-100)

“In the absence of light, darkness prevails”

-Motto of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, “Hellboy” (Dark Horse Comics)

Heart wrenching tales of abuse could easily fill these pages.  Generally, I try to stay away from stories of that kind.  Too often, they leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.

When I do write about lost lives, the words are my poor attempt to honor those lives and bear witness to the loss.

It may be some small consolation that such children have gone home to God.  Their pain is over.  That should not, however, diminish our outrage.

There are, of course, countless unreported cases of abuse.  Names we will never know, though God is familiar with them all.

While those victims are gone, their struggle ended, our obligation is to fight on.  It is a way of fighting darkness and death, fighting evil.  We may not have been in a position to save the lives of those children.  But we can try to save our own.

Our struggle with darkness is not insignificant.  We may feel isolated, may feel that our scars are overwhelming.  And, in truth, those scars may last a lifetime.  Which makes our struggle all the more heroic.

If the lost children could speak, they would applaud our efforts.  They would wish us Godspeed.  They were not able to live in this sad world any longer.  But we may yet triumph for their sake.

In fighting the scars, the darkness, we are on the side of the angels.

“Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.  Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will…Praise the Lord, my soul” (Ps. 103: 20-22 NIV).

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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Satan and Abuse Victims

Image of Satan by Gustave Doré, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1866), Source https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/milton/john/paradise/complete.html (PD)

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here”

-Motto over the Gates of Hell, from Dante’s Inferno

Abuse victims know Satan all too well.  We have met him in the form of pedophiles and panderers; parents and caregivers who did not know how to love; partners who used and discarded us like so many unwanted toys.

Truth and Lies

We have been tormented by Satan in every way possible – mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, and religiously, to the point that some of us have come to view death as a relief.

That statement about death is, of course, one of Satan’s lies.  But we have been told so many lies, we no longer recognize the truth.

Trust and Control

Where there is a history of abuse, the desire for control can be heightened.  Having been grievously harmed, we are determined not to be harmed again.  Which means trust is an issue for us.

Our wounds are so deep that some of us have vowed never to trust again.  In the interest of safety, we have willingly traded freedom for isolation.  A high price to pay.

But isolation is no guarantee of peace or safety.  That is just another of Satan’s lies.

Cries for Help

Most of us have cried out to God in our anguish.  Many have concluded that He long ago rejected us or simply does not exist (more of Satan’s lies).  A few of us have come to believe Satan is the stronger (a lie he gladly endorses).

Faith and Fear

It takes enormous faith to let down our guard, lay our defenses at God’s feet, and allow Him sovereignty over our lives.  Victims’ reluctance is more a reflection of fear than stubbornness; more a measure of the sins to which we were subjected, than those we committed ourselves.

Legalism and Self-Esteem

Acutely aware of our defects – real and imagined – and often rejected before, abuse victims are intensely sensitive to rejection.  Fearful that God will reject us, if we do offer to submit to His will, victims are flooded by feelings of inadequacy.

We must reclaim our self-esteem before we can surrender freely to God.  Otherwise the concept of surrender is likely to feel too threatening to us.  We were forced to submit to the evil inflicted on us.  The thought of submitting again – even to a good and holy God – can be overwhelming.

In the aftermath of abuse, we hardly dare assert ourselves, as it is.

This is not to say that we must be “perfect” or even “good” before God will come into our lives.  That is yet another of Satan’s lies.  God meets us where we are.

A frantic effort to “please” Him by doing good works (or flagellate ourselves for every failure) is unnecessary.  It amounts, in fact, to legalism – adherence to the letter of the law, at the expense of the spirit.  God does not ask this of us.

Our value in God’s eyes is not something to be earned at all.  It stems from the family relationship we have with God.  We are His beloved children.

Recognition of that profound truth can go a long way toward healing the wounds left by abuse.

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 31 NIV).

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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Protective or Not?

Las Vegas Strip, Author David_Vasquez (PD)

Hotel clerk, Danielle Jacobsen, expected a routine shift.  The middle-aged woman approaching her desk looked like any other Vegas tourist.

But Virginia Paris was decidedly out of the ordinary.  Explaining that she had been kidnapped, Paris asked that Jacobsen contact police without alerting her kidnapper who was standing nearby [1A].

“She was like, ‘Uh, I need help.  I’ve been abducted.  I’ve been missing since Friday.  It’s pretty serious, can you please pretend like you’re checking me into a room please and get the cops on the phone and get them here?’ ”

-Danielle Jacobsen on her encounter with kidnapping victim, Virginia Paris [1B]

Despite an Order of Protection, Paris had been kidnapped by her former boyfriend, Joseph Hetzel.  Jacobsen managed to contact Security inconspicuously.  Paris was taken to a room for safety, and Hetzel later arrested.

Orders of Protection

An Order of Protection from Abuse (also, known as a Restraining Order) limits or forbids the subject’s interaction with a particular person.  Such orders commonly arise from allegations of domestic violence, harassment, and/or stalking.

Statistics on Protective Orders have not been publicly available.  But there are thought to be over 1 million in effect in the United States on any given day [2].

Experts disagree on the effectiveness of Protective Orders.  A 2010 analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law concluded that they do serve a role in managing threats of violence [3].

However, an earlier analysis had determined that Protective Orders were violated an average of 40% of the time.  Some women maintain they were beaten for having obtained a Protective Order. Continue reading

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Self-Talk

Child sticking out his tongue, Author Augusto Starita (GNU Free Documentation License) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit…” (Jer. 9: 8).

The Bible does not favor the tongue much.  That organ is instead described as crafty (Job 15: 5), lying (Ps. 109: 2), false (Ps. 120: 3), divided (Ps. 55: 9), and deceitful (Ps. 52: 4).  Job called it a scourge (Job 5: 21), with evil hidden beneath the sweetness (Job 12: 20).

As abuse victims, we experienced this firsthand.  The full force of the tongue was directed against us.  We were vilified and demeaned by our abusers, humiliated and reviled without a chance to defend ourselves.

Into the Marrow

And their tongue [is] a sharp sword” (Ps. 57: 4).

Words can cut deeply, especially since children do not weigh their veracity.

Worse still, hurtful words can be absorbed into the marrow, becoming the vocabulary we use to converse with ourselves.  That inner dialog is, in effect, poisoned by the abuse to which we were subjected.

Unaware that there is any alternative, we rely on this polluted self-talk.

Unfortunately, what that does is perpetuate the lies with which we were barraged as children – that we were ugly, stupid, undeserving of attention or affection.  That we were perverted.  That we would not succeed in life, and stood no chance of finding love.

Exhausted and Mute

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws…” (Job 22: 15).

This negative inner dialog renders us not only exhausted, but mute.  How can we begin to untangle the lies?  Who would want to hear our side of the story, in any event?

Even the mildest confrontation has us stumbling over our tongues.  Whatever the context, arguments in favor of our position are never articulated or fade away to silence.

Speaking Truth to Ourselves

 In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues…” (Mark 16: 17).

But there is an alternative available to us.  It involves speaking God’s truth to ourselves.

We are not worthless in His sight.  In fact, the very opposite is true.  We are infinitely precious, so much so that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sakes. Continue reading

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Lessons in Parenting

“Judgment of Solomon” by Raphael (c. 1510), Apostolic Palace, Rome (PD-Art, Old-100)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

  • Cynthia Randolph deliberately shut her toddlers, aged 16 months and 24 months, in a hot car to “teach them a lesson” for not leaving the car when she wanted [1]. Believing the toddlers could get themselves out, Randolph went into the house, smoked some marijuana, and slept for 2-3 hours.  The temperature outside that Texas day reached 96 degrees.  The toddlers did not survive.  Randolph is being held on $200,000 bond.
  • Aramazd Andressian killed his 5 y.o. son “Piqui” after a trip to Disneyland [2]. Andressian and the boy’s mother had been in the midst of a highly contested divorce.  Andressian alternately threatened to take the boy to Cuba, Iran, or Armenia.  The child’s body was found after a two-month search involving rescue personnel, volunteers, and cadaver dogs.  Andressian has since pleaded guilty.

The majority of child victims who die at the hands of their parents are under five years of age [3].  More than a third are under the age of one.  Men murder six out of ten of these children, most often by beating or shooting them.

To “Teach Them a Lesson”

Some 700 children have died in hot cars in the last 20 years [4].  Over half the time, these children were forgotten by their caregivers.  About 17% of the time, children were intentionally left in the car by an adult, as was the case with the Randolph toddlers.

One might be tempted to blame Cynthia Randolph’s stupidity for her children’s deaths (raising the possibility of an affirmative defense of diminished capacity).  But Randolph was capable of devising several stories, in an effort to exculpate herself, before disclosing the facts.  The deaths have been ruled homicides [5].

It would seem that Cynthia Randolph is the one who would have benefited from lessons.

Self-Centeredness

Aramazd Andressian went a step further.  He killed his son from sheer self-centeredness. The vast majority of “family annihilators”, i.e. those who kill their immediate family, are men [6].  These men come from all backgrounds.  Most show no outward signs that violence is imminent.

It may be that Andressian did not distinguish between his son and himself.  Perhaps he could not envision a future for the boy without him.  This is selfishness in the guise of altruism.  Or perhaps Andressian simply wanted to inflict maximum pain on his wife. Continue reading

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Preventing Teen and Pre-Teen Suicide

The band “Rockers Behind the Bridge” performs at Suicide Prevention Month event (2015), Washington DC, Author US Customs and Border Protection (PD-fed. govt.)

After 7 students committed suicide, the Mesa Valley School District in Colorado briefly took 13 Reasons Why — the book on which the Netflix series by the same name is based — out of circulation [1].  The ban lasted no more than a few hours.

Other school districts have made the book mandatory summer reading.

Romanticizing Suicide

13 Reasons Why is a work of fiction in which a high school girl kills herself, leaving behind tapes to be played after her death.  Critics of the book – myself included – view it as romanticizing suicide, without providing young readers an alternative perspective.

A Daily Assault

Our children are daily assaulted by a culture that lionizes physical appearance, popularity/fame, athletic ability, wealth, and conformity.

Most do not meet the requisite criteria, in one way or another.  Those who do not may be excluded from normal activities, made the butt of jokes, taunted, intimidated, told that they are worthless, and urged to commit suicide [2].

Some 4400 will take their own lives [3][4].  Suicide is, in fact, the third leading cause of death among young people.  Over 5000 middle and high school students in the United States attempt suicide daily.  Over 14% of high school students admit to having considered it.

As parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and mentors of every sort, it is up to us to equip our children to deal with this barrage of insults, lies, and pain.

Reasons Not to Commit Suicide

The website Notes from the Recovering Self-Harmer provides a list of 40 reasons not to commit suicide [5].  Among them are the fact that suicide is final, the hope that things will get better, music, smiles, laughter, chocolate, and sunrises.

More even than these, the love of family, friends, and – above all else – God should anchor us.  But not all children have those to rely on.  When there is abuse (emotional/physical/sexual) or neglect in the home, the image of God can be greatly distorted. Continue reading

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Everyday Evil

Internet user on a cell phone, Author Raidarmax (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

A young teacher traveling on Southwest Airlines caught sight of disturbing texts by the passenger seated ahead of her on the plane.  Michael Kellar was casually planning with Gail Burnworth to molest two children [1].

Thinking quickly, the unnamed teacher took cell phone photos of the texts.  She then informed the flight crew.

Kellar was arrested in San Jose, CA after the plane touched down; Burnworth was later arrested in Tacoma, WA.  Kellar maintained that he had merely been fantasizing.  His texts, however, revealed the truth.

Kellar is 56 y.o. and Burnworth 50 y.o.  The children they were planning to molest are 5 y.o. and 7 y.o.  Both children were rescued by law enforcement.  Evidently, Burnworth had been babysitting them.

“Folks that are doing these sort of things are literally all around us.  We don’t know who they are…They need to be punished and they need to be kept away from kids.”

-San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears, Q13 Fox TV [2]

Evil can be found everywhere.  Many make it part of their everyday lives.  We must remain alert to its presence, and protect ourselves against evil, without surrendering our peace of mind.

That is a difficult task.  We can easily feel overwhelmed, and certainly discouraged.  It often appears that evil is winning the day.

But God will not allow that.  He remains in charge, even when all hope is lost.  The battle between good and evil rages.  However, the war has been won.  It was won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Be sure of this:  the wicked will not go unpunished, but those that are righteous will go free (Prov. 11: 21).

[1]  ABC News, “Man arrested after Southwest passenger says she saw him texting ‘molesting children’ police say” by Julia Jacobo and Alex Stone, 8/3/17, http://abcnews.go.com/US/man-arrested-southwest-passenger-texting-molesting-children-police/story?id=49020167.

[2]  Washington Post, “An alert airline passenger exposed a suspected child predator after glancing at his texts” by Kyle Swenson, 8/4/17, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/04/an-alert-airline-passenger-exposed-a-suspected-child-sex-predator-after-glancing-at-his-text-messages/.

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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