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Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

I have been traveling and have not been able to tend to my blog. If you posted a comment that is not appearing yet, this would be why. I will try to catch up in the next couple of days.

Yesterday, we got on the topic of child abuse in my Sunday School class. We read a Bible verse about the Israelites “throwing their sons and daughters on the fire” (child sacrifice), and someone made a comment about this no longer happening today. Of course, I climbed up on my soapbox and talked about the many ways that children are still being sacrificed in our society – through child pornography, turning a blind eye to suspected abuse, etc. I talked about it being everyone’s responsibility to intervene on behalf of children. I then quoted the statistics – that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 to 7 men are sexually abused by age 18. (I didn’t have the statistics for all forms of abuse, but including physical and emotional abuse would obviously increase these numbers.)

One father of two children (ages 13 and 10) was floored by the statistics and quite freaked out. I reassured him about how their best protection was growing up in a loving and safe home, which he is already providing. Then, he asked an interesting question that I would like to explore here – If such a high percentage of the population has been abused, then why don’t child abuse survivors have a stronger public voice? He pointed out that, even if 1/10 of those who had been abused spoke out, it would make for a powerful advocacy group that the rest of society could not ignore.

I don’t have a clear-cut answer to his question, but my first instinct is that the culprit is shame. As long as a person feels shame for being abused, he is much less likely to announce publicly that he has been abused and speak out about what society needs to do to stop the abuse. I think another culprit is that a large percentage of child abuse survivors have not worked through the healing process. Many live their lives pretending like it did not happen and/or using various coping strategies to avoid facing the healing process. Then, they heap on the shame of the coping mechanism, believing that nobody will listen to “an alcoholic,” “a cutter,” “an anorexic,” etc.

This man makes a good point – we have the numbers to change society. If enough of us spoke out about our own histories, we could change public misconceptions such as the widespread misconception that repressed memories mean that the abuse didn’t happen or that all abused children just grow up to abuse others. (Please know that I do not intend this blog entry to be a guilt trip for any child abuse survivor to speak out before he or she is ready to do so. I could not have done it a few years ago, and I know how hard I worked to reach a place where I could.)

I think the other hurdle is public resistance to hearing our stories. Most people can handle hearing about my “mainstream” abuse, but they turn into skeptics if I discuss any of the less talked about abuses, such as ritual abuse or animal rape. “Good” people don’t want to believe that this level of evil and depravity exists in the world. (I only wish I had that luxury!) It takes someone who has worked through the healing process and is very confident in his or her own truths to fight through that resistance. I believe only a very small percentage of child abuse survivors have healed enough from the less talked about types of child abuse to have reached a place that they feel confident enough to take on societal denial like that. I have done it – I still get shaky when facing a roomful of people who don’t want to believe that child abuse can be that twisted.

What are your thoughts on this? There is no question that we have the numbers to change society’s perception of child abuse and fight back, but we are not yet making much of a wave in society at large. Why do you think that is? How can we change this?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader emailed me and asked me to cover the topic of how the world blames the child abuse victims and how the world thinks they know the effects. This is a great topic idea that we need to talk about.

My experience is that, while most people are sympathetic to an abused child, they are mostly ignorant about the aftereffects of child abuse, especially in adulthood. I frequently hear comments such as, “an abused child is just going to grow up to become an abuser himself.” (This is not supported by statistics. Actually, only 1 in 10 abused children have been found to abuse in adulthood, which means that 90% of abused children do not become abusers. See this article.) I have been asked why I did not tell anyone. My response was, “Who would I tell? My own mother was hurting me. Who would I possibly have thought was safe when my own mother wasn’t safe?”

These are comments that I hear from well-meaning, law-abiding, “good” people. These are not abusers or people who in any way condone child abuse. However, society as a whole is woefully uneducated about child abuse and the aftereffects. This is one reason I am so passionate about educating people about child abuse every chance that I get, and I do this a lot at my church. Church people have the collective power to make a difference if they take a stand, but they are not going to do it if they are ignorant to the issues and statistics.

Another big area of societal ignorance is repressed memories. I strongly believe that the big wave of false memory syndrome propaganda in the 1990’s was perpetuated by child abusers, and many members of society still buy into the misconception that, if you did not always retain every memory of abuse from childhood, then it must have been implanted.

Stepping up on the soapbox…

When someone tells me that I must have false memory syndrome, I feel insulted, and I don’t feel this way easily. This assumption about me presumes that I am so weak-minded and weak-willed that I would simply allow another person to embed false memories in my head. I don’t trust many people, and I am a very intelligent person (graduated from a Top Ten graduate school). To tell me that I am so gullible that I would allow another person to implant these memories in my head is incredibly insulting.

Stepping off the soapbox…

Now that I have that off my chest, I will tell you how I respond … My sister and I have recovered numerous memories of the same events, and we have never seen the same therapist. We haven’t even lived in the same state since I started having flashbacks in 2003. So, to implant this many memories with this level of detail in two women living in two different states who do not see the same people regularly sounds like a much greater conspiracy theory than the truth that it happened.

It is well documented that young children (and even many adults) repress traumatic memories. Soldiers frequently return from battle with no memory of seeing their buddies’ body parts blown to bits. I know a five-year-old boy who was in a fatal car crash that took his mother’s life. He has no memory of that event, yet nobody questions that it happened. Everyone gets that the event was so traumatizing that he has repressed the memory. So, why does society at large have so much trouble understanding that a child exposed to repeated traumas would repress those memories?

Bottom line – Society at large does not “get it” about child abuse, and they are never going to “get it” unless we educate them. We need to do all we can to educate society about the epidemic of child abuse and the aftereffects. We need to stop sitting by silently listening to ignorant comments and educate these people. Of course, you need to heal enough to feel strong enough to take this on, but when you are ready, join the fight! If 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5-7 men spoke out about the truth of child abuse, it wouldn’t take that long to educate the world.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Do you remember when I urged you to contact your congressmen to pass the Protect Our Children Act? Our efforts are already bearing fruit. I received the following email from the National Association to Protect Children, which is the organization that provided me with specific information about how to get that bill passed into law. To learn more about this wonderful organization, click here.

The call from the police officer came late at night. His voice cracking, and tears in his eyes, he said he had just carried a three year old girl out of her home in his arms. In handcuffs was her “father”… a monster who had committed unspeakable crimes.

He was calling to thank PROTECT for making that child rescue possible.

Now we’re thanking you.

New proof is rolling in from the U.S. Justice Department that PROTECT members get children protected…

Thanks to a major PROTECT victory last February in Congress, 124 very special jobs are being created across America right now. These jobs, being filled as this message is written, are dedicated solely to rescuing children from the horror of child pornographers and sexual predators.

That’s 124 new warriors… 124 new soldiers in the war to protect our children. Each will do his or her part to work thousands of new cases, bringing down an iron curtain between predatory pedophiles and tens of thousands of child victims.

We’ll be watching and reporting.

What will never be reported are the countless boys and girls who will be given a chance to flourish and grow up happy, free from abuse, because of you.

Without PROTECT members, these 124 new soldiers would simply not exist. The investigations would never get started. Arrests would never be made. Children would never be rescued. In a world full of “feel-good” talk about children, I thought you would want to know this concrete proof that your investment in PROTECT is paying off.

You did this, PROTECT members. And I’m so proud to be on your side.

–David Keith

PROTECT

Image credit: National Association to Protect Children

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The State of North Carolina has passed a law that empowers a judge to issue a permanent no contact order against a convicted sex offender. See NC Session Law 2009-380. Let’s all do a happy dance!!

What I find pathetic is that this has not been the law up until this point. As someone who has a sexual abuser continuing to try to maintain contact with me (my mother), I understand the need for this law. Just hearing her voice on the answering machine or receiving a letter from her triggers me and sends me into an emotional nosedive. In my case, my mother is not passing along threats, but many sexual abuse survivors do. Now some sexual abuse survivors will have a way to protect themselves from this harassment permanently.

Of course, my mother does not live in NC, nor is she is a convicted sex offender, so this law will not take care of my situation. However, in the cases of sexual abuse survivors who choose to prosecute their abusers and get a conviction, they now have the ability to have a permanent no contact order (a restraining order) put into place. I am so glad to see that lawmakers are paying attention to the need for this protection for sexual abuse survivors.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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We did it!! Isurvive was in the Top Five most blogged-about charities for the contest run by Zemanta. Thank you very much to all of you who helped Isurvive pull this off.

Isurvive runs on a very low budget, so $1200 is going to keep the charity going for a long time. This money will enable Isurvive to continue offering the toll-free number so child abuse survivors who are struggling can hear a friendly and supportive voice. Isurvive will also be able to continue offering 24/7 support through the message board.

Most importantly, bloggers spread the word about this wonderful resource all over the Internet. Many child abuse survivors will learn about Isurvive and have a place to go when they feel like they are losing their minds. Also, more people are now aware that there is a need for such a resource.

Today was a victory for child abuse survivors everywhere. We have a voice. We can join together and be heard. We have empowered ourselves. We are no longer victims.

Congratulations Isurvive!!!!!!!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Short Update

I just popping in to give you a quick update. My voice is coming back. It is not back to normal, but it has improved greatly since yesterday. It is terrible not having a voice (both figuratively and literally).

I have been knee-deep in advocacy this week. As I have already written about, I have been trying to get enough bloggers to write about Isurvive (online message board for child abuse survivors) so we can earn a $1200 cash prize. We need to be in the Top Five in order to win the money. The contest ends on Saturday. As of this morning, we were tied for 5th place with 15 blog endorsements. I just sent Zemanta (the company sponsoring the contest) three more links. We’ll see if other charities had more endorsements today or not.

I also found out that my son’s small school is slated to lose three teachers, so I have been rallying the forces to try to get the School Board to change its mind. Some people have asked me if our efforts will really make a difference. I told them that the only guarantee is that, if we do nothing, our teachers will be gone. I obtained over 100 signatures today and will be working tirelessly to raise more tomorrow.

I am throwing the same passion into this cause as I throw into the healing process. I know that I cannot stop all child abuse, but I will never stop trying. I will never stop encouraging child abuse survivors to heal, and I will never stop doing all I can to make a difference. I might not win every battle, but we are sure to lose the war if we stand back and do nothing.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My book club recently met to discuss Tatiana de Rosnay’s fabulous book, Sarah’s Key. The story takes place during World War II, when thousands of Jews who lived in Paris were rounded up in 1942, forced into trains taking them to temporary camps outside of Paris, separated from their children (even babies!), and then shipped off to Auschwitz, where they were executed. The ladies in the book club were judging the Parisians harshly — How could these people watch all of those Jews being rounded up and do nothing? How could they live in such denial? My reply was to quote Edmund Burke:

All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke

Then, I brought up the present-day “Holocaust” that we are facing today. I pointed out that 1 in 3 women has been sexually abused. Silence … followed by, “How do you define sexual abuse?”

Then, I asked how many of them had heard about the Protect Our Children Act. Only one of them had because she had seen Oprah talking about it. I told them that, according to the officer on Oprah, he only had the resources to follow up on 2% of the leads before this act passed. That meant that 98% of the photos and videos of children being raped, assaulted, and tortured went into a pile because there were not enough resources to stop their abusers.

You would think that, after the public learned this information, this act would have been a shoe-in, but it wasn’t. You would have thought that the outrage over this “Child Pornography Holocaust” would equal what we say today about how we would have reacted if we had been living in Paris in 1942, but it wasn’t. The Democrats wanted to tack a bunch of pork onto their version of the bill, and the Republicans wanted to include stuff in their version that the Democrats would not support. Each side was so hell-bent on having its own way that the act risked not being passed before Congress recessed for the year.

The only reason the act did pass is that Oprah got enough people riled up to make it happen. I, along with thousands of other people, wrote my Congressmen and said, “If you vote no to this act, then I am voting no to you in November.” Thankfully, the Protect Our Children Act was passed into law, and law enforcement now has the means to investigate, and hopefully stop, many of these predators.

Back to the story … I then said that thousands of children are being pulled out of their beds at night to be sexually abused, some of them on film that is uploaded on the Internet. How many go to our neighborhood school down the street? What are we doing about it?

All that evil needs to prevail is for the good people to do nothing. All child pornographers need is for us to say, “It’s not my child,” or “What can I do about it? I am just one person,” or “It’s none of my business.” Sound familiar? Who are we to judge the Parisians about not getting involved to stop the Jewish round up when we sit here today in denial of an epidemic of child abuse? Have we learned nothing since 1942?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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