Tag Archives: courage

Fighting Back – Hunting Child Predators

Marisol Nichols at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, Author Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The TV series Law and Order:  Special Victims Unit and Riverdale could hardly be more different.  The first is a gritty crime drama.  The second is a teen melodrama based on the Archie Comics.

The two, however, have something in common:  a remarkable actress who takes part in real life FBI and other police “sting” operations targeting child predators [1].

Employing her acting skills, Marisol Nichols collaborates with law enforcement – sometimes in the role of a child, sometimes in the role of a distraught parent – to combat sex trafficking.  Texts and phone calls lure child molesters to motel rooms, where they can be arrested.

Nichols was, herself, sexually assaulted at 11 years of age.

The actress has since established a non-profit called Foundation for a Slavery Free World https://www.slaveryfreeworld.org.  Her non-profit produces Hollywood events to raise awareness of sex trafficking, and recognizes groups and individuals for their work in this field.

For her own work, Marisol Nichols received the President’s Distinguished Volunteer Service Award in 2017.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28: 1).

[1]  E!, “Riverdale Star Marisol Nichols’ Story of Hunting Child Predators Is Being Turned Into a TV Show” by Lauren Piester, 8/31/20, https://www.eonline.com/news/1183800/riverdale-star-marisol-nichols-story-of-hunting-child-predators-is-being-turned-into-a-tv-show.

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“Shadow Puppets” by Melissa

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Below is a violent, firsthand account of child abuse — most particularly physical abuse.

Distressing accounts can be found for every category of abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect.  Thousands of children are murdered worldwide before they can ever tell their harrowing stories.  

The victims of child abuse prefer not to read such accounts.  We have scars enough to attest to the reality of abuse. 

But those who still think child abuse is an insignificant issue — a subject exaggerated by the press — should make a point of reading this account.  Two things will stand out:  the enormous courage of these children; and the enormous compassion of the author (“Melissa”), now an adult.

While “Melissa” did her very best to protect herself and her brothers against their father’s neglect and their mother’s rage, I cannot agree with her conclusion that abuse is simply a matter of mental illness.

Mental illness is real.  Evil is, also, however, real.  The distinction rests in the capacity to tell right from wrong.  Mental illness involves a compromised understanding of the world and/or a compromised ability to control one’s actions. 

Evil involves a deliberate choice.

“The way that the shadows played under the door, I could see that my favorite tree was gracefully dancing in the wind. The sunlight shot like a laser beam into the closet.  ‘Hey, lets play shadow puppets.’ I whispered to my little brother.  ‘Okay,’ he said.

This time, his lips only turned a small shade of blue.  My brother faced his head towards me and I made myself look into his eyes, holding my own grief so I could contain his.  I remember looking at my mother and wondering if this time was it, would she kill him? She would always stop -before she would suffocate him.

Mom had bad days.  Her children were the face of every single person that day that had hurt her, that had let her down, a family member, an argument with my Dad.  My brother and I never knew when our turn was going to be for mom to release her anger.  I always wondered when it would begin.  Would we be able to have the comfort of the closet, would we be able to see the closet this time around?  That was always my hope.  Mom would always begin with me.  I would lay down on the sofa and she would put a pillow over my face.  She would then sit on top of me and she proceeded to suffocate me. I always turned my head to the wall facing away because I knew that my little brother was there in the hallway.  I never wanted him to see my face. I never wanted him to see the fear and sometimes even the hope – that maybe I would die…”

[Continued at:  https://livinginjmj.com/2020/03/26/the/ ]

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Scars and Glory

“I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious”

“This Is Me” by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek,
Copyright © Kobalt Music Publishing

As abuse survivors, we carry scars – emotional, mental, and physical.  That is a fact of life for us.

To be ashamed of our scars is to be ashamed of who we are and who we were meant to be.  Afraid, we became valiant.  Humiliated, we grew resolute.  Weak and wounded, we found our strength.

Our scars are proof of that.  They are proof of the power with which we held onto life…and the Power that sustained us.

We have been hurt and we have been broken.  But we are still here.  We have been defiled and spat upon, rejected and reviled.  But we are still here.

We may not meet society’s standards for perfection.  We may not fit society’s mold of what it is to be acceptable.  Those standards are a product of ignorance.  That mold was meant to be broken.

Our scars are obvious.  But we are still here.  And our wounds are, also, our glory.

“In my deepest wound I saw Your glory and it astounded me.”

-St. Augustine of Hippo

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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Vincent

“Self-Portrait” by Vincent van Gogh (1889), National Gallery of Art (Accession No. 1998.74.5), Source https://artsandculture.google.com (PD-Art, PD-old)

The artist Vincent van Gogh led a tragic life.  His art – now lauded – was ahead of its time, and unappreciated by the public.  Tormented by loneliness, Vincent longed desperately for love and friendship, but had difficulty with both.

However, Vincent and his brother, Theo, were extremely close.  Amsterdam’s van Gogh Museum is holding an exhibition in which contemporary artists and writers have responded to the hundreds of letters Vincent wrote Theo.  In these letters, Vincent movingly described his hopes and fears.  See, https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/01/van-gogh-purpose-letter/  and  https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/05/07/vincent-van-gogh-art-love-letters/ .

Below is an excerpt from the letter novelist, Nicole Krauss crafted [1].  I believe abuse victims may find it helpful.

“Dear Vincent,

You write about fear:  Fear of the blank canvas, but also, on a larger scale, of the ‘infinitely meaningless, discouraging blank side’ that life itself always turns toward us…

Repeating Old Patterns

It’s a strange thing about the human mind that, despite its capacity and its abundant freedom, its default is to function in a repeating pattern.  It watches…the days and seasons, the cycle of life and death all going around in an endless loop, and unconsciously…echoes these cycles.  Its thoughts go in loops, repeating patterns established so long ago we often can’t remember their origin, or why they ever made sense to us.  And even when these loops fail over and over again to bring us to a desirable place, even while they entrap us… [we] still find it nearly impossible to resist them.  We call these patterns of thought our ‘nature’ and resign ourselves to being governed by them as if they are the result of a force outside of us…

Breaking with the Past

And yet it is unquestionably within our power to break the loop…by choosing to think — and to see, and act — in a different way.  It may require enormous effort and focus.  And yet for the most part it isn’t laziness that stops us from breaking these loops, it’s fear…

Fear

And so before we can arrive at the act of breaking, we first have to confront our fear.  The fear that the blank canvas and the blank side of life reflects back to us, which is so paralyzing, as you put it, and seems to tell us that ‘we can’t do anything.’  It’s an abstract fear, though it finds a way to take on endless shapes.  Today it may be the fear of failure, but tomorrow it will be the fear of what others will think of us, and at a different time it will be fear of discovering that the worst things we suspect about ourselves are true… Continue reading

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Courage

Motivational poster, Cadiz, Spain, Author Emilio Rodriguez Posada (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.  In this instance, it took the form of a captive 14 y.o. girl, in fear for her life.

The girl was a Michigan runaway, kidnapped in Indiana, and forced into prostitution in California.  Though aware that her kidnappers would monitor calls, she bravely reached out to the non-profit, Crisis Text Line, which then contacted police.

As a result, the San Jose Police Dept. raided Motel 6, locating the girl and two other women held there against their will.  Antoine Williams, Christopher Lyon Johnson, and Curtis Lee Russell were arrested, and charged with kidnapping, pimping, and human trafficking.

Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/ is a free service that connects people in crisis with counselors.  Over 100 million messages have been processed to date.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31: 6).

[1]  People, “How a Text From a 14-Year-Old Girl Busted an Alleged Sex Trafficking Ring” by Christine Pelisek, 5/31/19, https://people.com/crime/text-14-year-old-girl-alleged-sex-ring/ .

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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Heroes

The film The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about a group of gunslingers who selflessly defend a town against enormous odds.

In the 1960 version (starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen), the men fight off bandits in a Mexican village.  In the 2016 version (starring Denzel Washington), they combat a ruthless robber baron in a frontier town.

Demons 

In both versions of the film, the gunfighters are unquestionably heroes – strong, courageous, and expert at their craft.  In each version, however, one man in the group wrestles with demons from his past.

In the 1960 version, the character “Lee” (played by Robert Vaughn of “Man from UNCLE” fame) fears he has lost his nerve.  Haunted by the enemies he has killed, Lee suffers from nightmares.  He drinks.  His hands tremble.  He breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of battle.

In the 2016 version, the character “Goodnight Robicheaux” (played by Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate marksman who now has difficulty taking aim.  Goodnight sees hallucinations that he fears foretell his death.

Both men worry that they will not be able to perform when called upon to do so, that they will let others down.  Both consider themselves weak and cowardly.

A Different Perspective

But the audience does not view them that way.  The audience feels enormous compassion for these characters.

Both men stumble.  Yet they somehow find the courage to face their fears, in defense of others.  That they are flawed is one reason The Magnificent Seven has such a powerful impact.  Their internal struggles make the film more compelling. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEW – Climbing Over Grit

Image result for wikimedia commons "climbing over grit"

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Climbing Over Grit by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and her daughter Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi is a ringing indictment of child marriage, in the years leading up to and during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

A moving story of courage, strength, and love in the face of abuse, Climbing Over Grit is a first-hand account of the early life of Laleh’s mother, Najma.

Neglected by her wealthy but self-absorbed parents, Najma is married at the age of 11 to a man thirteen years her senior who regularly beats and rapes her.  Despite horrific abuse, Najma’s spirit is never broken.  She forms a close relationship with her mother-in-law and manages to raise four children (becoming a grandmother at the early age of 30).

In the process – and despite her husband’s vehement opposition – Najma resumes her education, attaining a small degree of independence.  However, history repeats itself when Najma and her husband arrange a marriage for their daughter, Jaleh, at the age of 15.  Continue reading

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Life

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139: 16).

Abuse survivors have not always experienced life at its best.  But life remains a priceless gift.  We must cherish it.

Mother Teresa (standing all of 4’11” and weighing less than 100 lbs) worked among the poorest of the poor in India.  Yet she maintained a positive view of life.  The poem below is by her.

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

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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Fairy Tales

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Author Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Photographer Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

“Once upon a time…”  When we were children those were magical words.  They called up a world of fairy godmothers, princes slaying dragons, and wishes come true.  A fairy tale promised excitement and adventure.  Best of all, we were guaranteed a happy ending.

Andrew Lang compiled hundreds of fairy tales into The Fairy Books of Many Colors.  I devoured these as a child, one color after another – The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, etc. – as fast as I could lay hands on them.  I simply could not get my fill.  Yet I could not have said at the time what the fascination was for me.

Psychologists have long argued over the meaning and usefulness of fairy tales.  These universally loved stories can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The explanation that comes closest to my own experience is that fairy tales allow children to confront and deal with their fears and concerns – whether of abandonment (Hansel and Gretel), death (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), rejection (Cinderella), etc. – in symbolic terms, so that those fears and concerns are reduced to manageable size.

Children get the satisfaction of slaying their own dragons…from a safe distance. Continue reading

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Anxiety, Phobias, and PTSD – Part 1

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1893), National Gallery, Norway (Accession No. NG.M.00939), Source WebMuseum (PD)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea
…” (Ps. 46: 1-2).

Most people have experienced anxiety, in one situation or another.

The death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, job loss, and moving are recognized as major stressors [1].  Other anxiety producing occasions include public speaking (always a favorite), waiting on approval for a mortgage, meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and having the in-laws over for Thanksgiving.

Then, of course, there are a host of phobias.  As a general rule narrowly focused, phobias are no small matter for those suffering from them.  Phobias include the fear of heights, spiders, snakes, birds, tight spaces, bridges, flying, and blood [2].

Purpose of Anxiety

Anxiety is intended to alert us to potential danger, and prepare the body for it.

A part of the brain called the amygdala releases neuro-transmitters that initiate the so called “fight of flight” response, producing the sensations of anxiety [3].  The heart rate climbs; blood rushes to the muscles; the lungs work harder.  This process is largely autonomic.  We have, by design, very limited control.

For most, the panic associated with stressful situations quickly subsides.  Shallow breathing deepens and slows.  Rapid heartbeat subsides.

The audience does or does not throw tomatoes.  The in-laws smile or grimace – it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference – and swallow their turkey.  We eventually get the mortgage.

In short, the body figures out we are going to survive.

Anxiety Disorders

About 40 million Americans, however, suffer from anxiety disorders [4].  Severe anxiety, whatever form it takes, is debilitating and can be crippling.

A. PTSD

The severe anxiety resulting from traumas such war, rape, or child abuse is better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [5].

Whatever its origin, PTSD can cause recurrent, powerful, panic attacks, with or without an identifiable trigger.  These attacks are typically accompanied by heart palpitations, chest pain, the sensation of being smothered, and a feeling of dread.  A panic attack can, also, be experienced as paralysis and overwhelming fear.

PTSD sufferers may, in addition, experience flashbacks (vivid and disturbing memories, re-experienced involuntarily).  I have discussed these elsewhere [6]. Continue reading

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