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.”

The lies non-offending parents tell themselves, the rationalizations they construct to avoid confronting the abuse, contribute to the scars their children bear.  No adult is as defenseless as a child.

That some of those children can speak eloquently as adults about the abuse to which they were so cruelly subjected is astounding.  That many go on to become better parents than their own parents were is nothing short of miraculous.

With thanks to Marie Williams whose poignant essay “Missing You” inspired this post

Readers are encouraged to visit Marie’s blog Come Fly with Me at https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com

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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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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Absent, Part 2 – The Nuclear Family

Just Divorced, Author Jennifer Pahlka, Oakland, CA, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Just Divorced, Author Jennifer Pahlka, Oakland, CA, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“ ‘Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?’ ” (Matt. 7: 9).

With the change in sexual mores stemming from the 1960s and the impact of divorce on the nuclear family, many children grow up in single parent households who might otherwise have had a father actively involved in their lives [1A].

Single Parent Households

According to the US Census Bureau, twelve million households in the US are headed by single parents, 80% of these by single mothers.  And that number is growing [2].

All too often, children become pawns in the power struggle that can ensue in a divorce.  When child support payments are late, women (who may feel powerless to do anything else) at times deny men access to their children.  Unfortunately, this can erode the parental bond to a child’s detriment.

A 2011 study found that non-custodial parents – whether male or female – made only 61% of required child support payments to the parent with custody of their children [7].

As a practical matter, the income of single parent homes is greatly reduced [1B].  One in four American children under the age of 18 is being raised without a father, 45% of these children below the poverty level [3].

Poverty and No Father

The problems associated with poverty, and the absence of a father in the home are significant.  These can range from poor school performance, and high drop-out rates, to emotional and physical abuse or neglect, drug and alcohol use, and delinquent behavior [4].

Child abuse has, in fact, been called the dark underside of cohabitation [5].  A mother’s boyfriend can pose a real threat to the life of a child not his own [6].

Love and Security

None of this is meant to suggest that divorced dads do not love their children.  While some men do abandon a first family and “trade up” to a second, many more fight for custody when a mother is drug addicted, violent, or otherwise incapable of caring for the children.

The point is that a great many children do not experience a father’s love, a father’s example, or the comfort and security of a father’s “day to day” presence.

Divorced dads need to make a special effort to remain full-time fathers.

[1A][1B]  Huffington Post, “The Disappearing Nuclear Family and the Shift to Non-Traditional Households Has Serious Financial Implications for Growing Numbers of Americans” by  Sandra Timmerman and Debra Caruso, 3/27/13, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debra-caruso/retirement-plan-the-disappearing-nuclear-family_b_2534622.html.

[2]  Pew Research Center, Social Trends, “1. The American Family Today”, 12/17/15,  http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/ .

[3]  Single Mother Guide, Single Mother Statistics, https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/.

[4]  Princeton University, Future of Children, “The Effects of Poverty on Children” by Jeanne Brooks-Dunn and Greg Duncan, https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf.

[5]  NBC News, Children’s Health, “Children at higher risk in non-traditional homes”, 11/18/07, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21838575/ns/health-childrens_health/t/children-higher-risk-nontraditional-homes/.

[6]  The Daily Beast, “Why Are Mothers’ Boyfriends So Likely to Kill?” by Samantha Allen, 9/25/15,  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/25/why-are-mothers-boyfriends-so-likely-to-kill.html.

[7]  Time, “How Deadbeat are Deadbeat Dads, Really?” by Belinda Luscombe, 6/15/15, http://time.com/3921605/deadbeat-dads/.

This series will continue next week with Absent, Part 3 – Children Having Children

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: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Absent, Part 1 – The Sexual Revolution

The crowd at Woodstock Music Festival (1969), Authors Derek Redmond and Paula Campbell (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The crowd at Woodstock Music Festival (1969), Authors Derek Redmond and Paula Campbell (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Our society seems increasingly to view fathers as sperm donors [1].  The very concept of fatherhood is being lost, replaced by the part-time dads of divorce and – worse still – the so called “baby daddies” who assume little or no responsibility for their offspring.

The men who might actually want to raise their children – to love and support them (and their mother); to teach them right from wrong; to protect them from harm; to stand by them faithfully, through thick and thin – are rapidly going extinct.

A Lifelong Bond

First and foremost, responsibility for a child rests with the man (and woman) who elected to conceive that child and/or failed to take measures to prevent conception.

Claiming “surprise” at a pregnancy that resulted from unprotected sex between healthy adults is disingenuous, to say the least.  Offering a partner the funds for an abortion is not sufficient to satisfy the parental burden.

Though it changes over time, the parent-child connection is a lifelong bond.  The children deprived of it – even if well cared for materially– are left with a great emptiness.

Contributing Factors

The major factors contributing to the problem of absent fathers include a change in sexual mores, which eliminated or greatly reduced the stigma of illegitimacy; the vanishing nuclear family; children having children; and certain aspects of culture unique to the inner city.

The Sexual Revolution

But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12: 8).

The sexual revolution of the 1960s made pre-marital sex and cohabitation acceptable, while removing the ignominy of children born outside marriage (much to the benefit of such children, thankfully).

At the same time, a radical shift took place in African-American culture.  From 1890 until the 1960s, African-Americans over the age of 35 were more likely to be married than whites.  However, during the 1960s, that statistic was reversed. Continue reading

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Precious

“A Grandmother’s Love” (Courtesy of Women’s UN Reporting Network and USA National Resource Center on Domestic Violence)

A good-for-nothing man is an evil-doer; he goes on his way causing trouble with false words…” (Prov. 6: 12).

Baby girl, you are so precious.  You are so precious, you don’t even know.  Your Momma and I loved you from the moment she brought you into this world.  Even before that.  Your Daddy left early on, but we loved you just the same.

We rocked you, walked the floors with you when you were teething, saw you take your first step.  We cooked for you, we mended your clothes.  We saw you on the bus that first day of school.  You were so pretty, your hair all done up in ribbons.  Maybe you can’t remember, but I do.

You and I, we lost your Momma to hard work, then no work, then those devil drugs.  You must have asked me a million times where she was, on those nights she didn’t come home to us.  But she loved you.  She tried her best.  It just wasn’t enough in this cruel world.

Your Momma tried to help you with your lessons, in the beginning, taught you one and one makes two.  Do you remember that?  It was just that the lessons she had to learn were harder – lessons about hard men, and the hard road a woman faces alone.

Now you want to run after this man!  This good-for-nothing man?!  You think he’s going to give you something you don’t already have?  He doesn’t want to give.  All he wants to do is take from you.  Take your hips, take your fresh young face, take your smile.  But you believe his promises, promises as empty as noise.

Is it because your Daddy wasn’t there to tell you how special you are?  Is it because you didn’t see yourself in his eyes?  We tried, your Momma and I, tried to tell you that, tried to show you every which way we could.  Try and remember, baby girl. Continue reading

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Semper Fi

US Marine Corps Emblem, Author Institute of Heraldry (PD)

  • As of 2011, there were 203,000 women on active duty in the military; another 129,960 in the National Guard and Reserve [1A].
  • Men and women in the Marine Corps must meet the same standards for combat jobs [2].
  • Though the vast majority of casualties have been men, at least 33 women have been killed in action in Afghanistan and 66 in Iraq. Over 900 women have been wounded in combat [1B].

The Marine Corps has admitted to Congress it is at a loss how to protect female Marines against social media predators [3].

Secretive groups like Marines United and Just the Tip of the Spear have obtained and shared nude photos of female Marines and recruits online [4A].  Other branches of the service are not immune [7].  Hundreds of women are known to have been victimized.

Diminishing Women

This is a way of diminishing women.  Some argue there a culture of misogyny in the Marines.

A Slow Response

Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Thomas Brennan, who runs the nonprofit news organization The War Horse, first drew attention to the problem in January of this year [4B].

The approach by the Marine Corps has been slow, deliberate, and outdated.  Meanwhile, Marines United (which claims some 30,000 members) has repeatedly traded one Facebook page for another.

Continue reading

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The Twins, Part 2 – Perfectionism

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1441-1514) (PD)

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1440-1514) (PD-Old)

This post was written in collaboration with Marie Williams whose remarks are highlighted.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.

We return to the topic of procrastination and perfectionism, related patterns of behavior in which many abuse victims find themselves trapped.

The part we play in creating our own dilemmas – the large and small crises in our lives stemming from procrastination – was discussed in Part 1 of this series.

Chance for Failure (Imperfection)

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1: 7).

Apart from the problems it would generate for anyone, failure – defined by many abuse victims as imperfection, to any small degree – results in shame and self-revilement for us.  Since creating these dilemmas greatly increases our chance for failure, the question arises why we persist in creating them.

“The whole time I was procrastinating, I thought myself foolish, an idiot, a dunce, a failure, because who in their right mind, sees a fire starting or about to start, purposely hides the fire extinguisher, forgets where she has put it and then goes and reads a book, deciding to deal with the fire when it becomes bigger and more unmanageable?  Because that is what procrastination amounts to when you come to think of it in rational terms.  Yet I could not help myself.”

-Marie Williams

The obvious answer is that we do not believe ourselves capable of accomplishing the task at hand.  Putting it off defers the painful acknowledgment of our own inadequacy.  And it provides us an excuse for failure.  Had conditions been right, had we started on the task sooner, perhaps we might have succeeded after all.

Again, the question is why.  Why are we so certain of failure?  This goes directly to our childhood abuse. On an unconscious level, we create these dilemmas to replicate the abuse which is what gives them such power over us. 

We were told repeatedly how inadequate we were.  Told how ugly, stupid, skinny, fat, or retarded we were.  Told that we would never amount to anything.  Or we were ignored entirely, starved for food and affection both.

No shock that we doubt and second guess ourselves, wrestling over decisions.

“I floundered when faced with choices.  Wanting to please and be approved of ALL THE TIME, I became lost in my own lack of confidence.  This, I think, was due to the fact that I couldn’t manage the abuse.  I adopted the same response to situations which generated that same confusion in me.”

-Marie Williams

Failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Our abusers are “proven” right.  So it seems to us.  Our failure couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the damage they inflicted on us.  Nooo. Continue reading

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