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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 2 – Guilt and Shame

Crying child, Author Asad Amjad ChangEzi (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’ ” (Matt. 18: 6).

It is easier for children to believe they “deserve” the evil done to them, than to take in the fact an adult who should care for them actually has little or no regard for their well-being.

The Statute of Limitations and other obstacles can make it difficult to hold child abusers and molesters accountable legally.  Even with a conviction, however, the feeling of “sinfulness” may rebound from an abuser to his victims.

This in no way implies that they were at fault.  Victims, however, relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. They are often left with a vague sense of unworthiness that can permeate their lives, and undermine subsequent relationships.

Though this feeling of their own “sinfulness” can be overwhelming to abuse victims, the conclusions they draw from it are not accurate.  Victims did not warrant or invite the abuse.  They remain deserving of love.

The feeling of “sinfulness” is just one of the scars left in the wake of abuse.  Other symptoms can include anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction.  These behaviors either stem from the pain or are attempts to numb it.  All of them “punish” the victim, who was never at fault in the first place!

The symptoms of abuse may, themselves, become a cause of shame to victims.  Self-destructive behaviors shift the focus away from the abuse, while silently declaring it to the world.  Imperfect as coping mechanisms, these behaviors can have dire consequences but are, in effect, a cry for help.

Originally posted 7/7/13

Of NoteA Vatican tribunal has found Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam guilty of abusing minors and removed him from office.  Apuron was suspended in June 2016 following accusations that he sexually abused altar boys as a parish priest during the 1970s.

Thus far, the Archdiocese of Guam has been named in 159 sex abuse lawsuits involving Apuron and others.

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 1 – Victims and Predators

Frost covered rose, Author 3268zauber (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

” ‘Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father…’ ” (Matt. 18: 10).

Each year, some six million children in the United States are sexually or physically abused.

This 6-part series will explore the emotional and spiritual ramifications of abuse, with a view toward assisting the survivors of abuse and those who care for them in dealing with its long-term effects.

Those of us who have decades of experience with abuse and its aftermath are all too familiar with these details.  But for each new generation of victims, these truths must be restated.

It must be said at the outset that children are NEVER responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them. The idea of a “bad” or “seductive” child is a lie perpetrated by child molesters, a rationale to excuse their heinous actions.

Predators are often manipulative, convincing child victims that they brought on the violation; consented to the violation; will not be believed, if the violation is reported; will be sent away from home, if the violation is reported; will place their parents (or pets) in danger, if the violation is reported, etc.  Some of these same arguments are made to women by the husbands and boyfriends who perpetrate violence against them.

As a consequence, victims often experience a misplaced sense of guilt and shame.  This will be further discussed in our next segment.

Originally posted 6/30/13

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To Match the Blood – Part 2

Purple ribbons at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort mark beginning of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, Author Sgt. Angel Galvan (PD as work of federal govt.)

 At the conclusion of one of my abuse shelter talks, the women there presented me with a notebook of handwritten thanks they had put together for me.  I cherish that memento, but the thanks were unnecessary.  It has been my honor to speak to and for these women.

The legal system provided inadequate relief.  [According to the women I met, it] could be life-threatening for…[an abused] woman to contact police.  Too often, police treated the call for help as a routine squabble.  Protective Orders could be obtained through the courts, but were not always enforced.

Though not a domestic relations attorney, I had been to Family Court for the legal clinic.  It reminded me of nothing so much as an ancient bazaar, merchants haggling.  The rooms were packed with unrepresented women and their children, all supplicants waiting their meager share of justice.  Some judges welcomed the few attorneys present; others seemed to despise attorneys.

The teenage son of one of my clients was…determined to become a lawyer, himself.  At age fourteen, he was already jaded by the system, sure that he could master it.  Certain he could do no worse.

— Excerpt from Like Rain on Parked Cars

Originally posted 9/22/13

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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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View from the Crater

Gravity anomaly map of Chicxulub impact crater, Author USGS, Source http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2003/05/meetings.html (PD as work product of federal gov’t).

Beneath the foliage of the Yucatan peninsula and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico lies an ancient impact crater.  Scientists believe this is the site where a meteor the size of Mt. Everest struck the earth, resulting in extinction of the dinosaurs.  Sixty-five million years later, geologic evidence for that impact is still present.

It is not uncommon for abuse victims to view abuse as the central event in their lives, and to define themselves with reference to it.

As with the Chicxulub crater, evidence of the abuse is still present years later.  Forever after, that destructive event (or series of events) will be the dividing line in victims’ lives:  pre-abuse and post-abuse, the difference between innocence and innocence lost.

All too many women and children will die, as a result of abuse – some at the hands of a loved one, some by their own hand, years after the abuse has technically “ended”.  Those who survive the trauma are likely to suffer from permanent physical and psychological symptoms, impacting all aspects of their lives.

There is nothing positive to be said about abuse.  Because of its very magnitude, however, survivors may find that abuse serves as a kind of standard against which other events can be measured.  What are office politics, by comparison?  What are parking tickets, canceled flights, lost luggage, even stolen vehicles (so long as they do not generate more abuse)?

In a sense, we can draw strength from our bitter experience.  The abuse provides a unique perspective which puts many lesser things in their place.  We have lived through a meteor strike.  What are mere hurricanes to us?

Originally posted 2/9/14

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