“Giving a Voice to the Victims: From Victim to Victor”

“Be ashamed to die until you have one some victory for humanity.”  Horace Mann

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him.”   Psalm  62:1  NLT

      There are victims of child sexual abuse and there are survivors. And then there are the victors.

      It is evil that causes people to sexually abuse another person. It is evil that allows someone to steal a child’s innocence and claim it as their own. In a battle with evil, God is the only ally that provides us with any hope of victory. It is God and God alone who can provide the strength and love needed to enable a person who is confronted by evil to stand up and draw the battle lines and move confidently to victory.

      In today’s superficial world, things that mean nothing at all are glorified and the One who means salvation to the entire world is relegated to an afterthought. Many people are uncomfortable when the conversation turns to God for they have never fully relied on Him and experienced His power. When we decide to make a stand with God against the evil that walks this earth and preys on the innocent, we are able to confidently draw a line in the sand, look evil in the eye, and say, “Bring it!”.

      In this next installment in the story of her personal war against the evil that tried to consume not just her innocence, but her very soul, her identity, and her life, our courageous young friend moves from being a survivor to being a victor as she draws her own battle lines.

Her story continues:

I’m Possible                                                

     I’m a fighter. My story involves four options; to give up, to give in, to give it all I’ve got, or to give it all up to Him. The way I see it, to give up is to give in. To give it all I’ve got can be selfish, and to give it all up to Him seems impossible. But I have to stop there; even the word “impossible” is contradicting because it says “I’m Possible”. The fourth option is the reason why I’m alive today. Not alive in a physical sense, but alive in spirit. I’m a fighter. I’m alive. I’m possible.

     To give up. My mindset for the longest time after the abuse. If I failed at being perfect at any task, I’d give up right away. My life seemed to lack purpose. To me, my body was physically there to be used as a sex object and nothing more. To give up was easy as I walked through life with no self worth and no value – except for what my body was intended to be used for. Most times I had myself beat before I even had the chance to find the strength inside to not give up. In complete honesty, I thought daily of giving up totally. To give up on life seemed way better than the hell I was being forced through. But something, no not something, someone kept me going. I fought an every day battle of even wanting to push forward to the next day. My body was a temple for God. Intended to be used to honor Him and the life he has blessed me with; but how could I not give up on that when my temple was destroyed, not by choice? How was I supposed to not give up when it seemed as if He gave up on me? I fought. By giving up, would believe in the lie that God did this. That God gave up on me. To give up would be letting Satan win. To give up would be to give in to the torture I was put through. I’m a fighter against that lie. As I got older, I wanted to make it evident that I would not give up, I would stand and stand strong. To give up was not an option.

     To give in. During the abuse I was made submissive. In every act done or manipulated into doing, I gave in. It was my fault, I was guilty, I was blamed for being too easy. I gave in to those lies. It later affected my everyday tasks and daily routines. I’d be undeceive, unable to make decisions for myself, and easily conformed into the person people wanted me to be. I had no backbone. I couldn’t stand up for myself. I gave in to all the lies of believing I was ugly, worthless, guilty, not good enough, and so much more. I fought every day to build courage. To build confidence to not give in; like I was a branded cow. I was only good for producing one or two things for my “master”.  Every time I would give in, that something, no not something, someone saved my cognitive thought process and fought for me. I fought to find strength to develop my own identity, one separate from the one I unwillingly gave into. To give in was weak.

     To give it all I’ve got. Well that’s just unreasonable. Sure, ultimately it is my physical and mental strength to give anything I do my very best. But that is not MY doing. This is exactly why I failed myself on so many occasions. I believed it was all me. As a Christian from a young age, I wondered how could my strength to fight this every day battle come from God, when he did nothing to help me when I was crying out to Him silently in fear? The pain I felt was mine not His. The tears I cried myself to sleep with, fell from my eyes, not His. The body that laid there absent-minded was my six year old body NOT His. The fear I felt, my feeling, not His. This phase I went through was all me. It was my battle, my emotions, my body. Every day I gave it all I got. Admitting this I could slap myself for but I will give it all I’ve got because and for Him. To give it all I’ve got can be selfish.

     To give it all up to Him. I didn’t give up because, He persevered. I didn’t give in because He fought for me. I gave it all I’ve got because He gave me strength to fight for the next day. The previous phase I went through was the biggest lie I could ever lead myself to believe. Sin was committed against me, Christ’s love was used for me. I wasted so much time blaming God for allowing the abuse to happen to me. But little did I know at that time, that God did something to protect me because He kept covering me with restored purity and new spirit to face another day. Every bit of pain I felt, broke His heart too. The tears I cried, He paid the price for by the blood that covered our sins; even the sin committed/used against me. The body that laid there on so many accounts, was His temple. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. My body is His. Its intended to worship Him, made perfect in His image. He too felt every wrongful act done against me. The fear I felt was heard through my cries but I was too hurt to hear his gentle whispers to “be still, know that I am God, and that He was there for me”. I’m a fighter because He fought for me. Now its time for me to fight for Him. To give it all up to Him is not impossible. I’m Possible.

     Since I eventually sought after God and talked to Him about what he already knew, I found a renewed strength to fight back, reclaim what was lost, Become me.  I’m possible. I am able to look my perpetrator in the eyes and genuinely say I still love you. I am able to forgive him. I am able to tell myself that I am beautiful. I am able to have hope in a bright future. I am able to love unconditionally. I am able to stand up for my beliefs. I am able to be imperfect. I am able to fight for a better tomorrow. I am able to talk about this and spread awareness. I am able to do all these things because the great “I AM” is alive in me.

     I will not give up, because that is not an option.

     I will not give in, because that is weak.

     I will not give it all I’VE got, because that can be selfish.

     I will give it all up to Him, because it is possible.

     I’m possible.

     Thanks to my hero, my Dad, I was reminded that the only option is the fourth. Fight because He fought for you.

      This month is Child Sex Abuse Awareness month. I wanted to share this side of my story because it is something worth fighting for. I wanted to take the opportunity to look at God’s prevailing power in such a nasty part of our society and the statistics that are unfortunately true. There is good that can come from this. For anyone who is struggling with being a victim, you are not alone. Fight for another day, because I promise you, its worth it.

He is with you.

God is good.

I’m possible. 

You can be too.

Give all up to Him.

“Giving A Voice To The Victims: The Strength Of A Survivor”

“We conquer – not in any brilliant fashion – we conquer by continuing.”                        George Matheson

“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”    Philippians  4:13  NLT

      My dear friend Richard Roy asked me quite some time ago what I hoped to accomplish in writing the “Chronicles”. I can’t remember my exact answer at the time, but I do know what that hope is today. It goes far beyond anything I imagined in the beginning, but I suspect that somewhere at the center of my being has always dwelled the answer that I am only now able to articulate:

      I want to help people understand that the world is in terrible pain and it is the responsibility of each and every one of us – as children of God – to work to stop that pain. As children of God, it is our responsibility to love one another; to help one another; to encourage one another; and to protect one another.

      When another child of God is hungry, we must feed them.

      When another child of God is homeless, we must give them shelter.

      When another child of God is lost, we must help them find their way.

      And when another child of God is in pain, we must comfort them, even if it means sharing in that person’s pain.

      As our survivor of child sexual abuse continues her story and shares the very personal pain of her abuse with us, I would like everyone following her incredible journey to give something to her in kind: a word of encouragement; a word of understanding; a word of support; a word of compassion.

      Show her that you hear her pain and are as numbed by her story as you are impressed with her strength, her courage, and her determination to be a survivor.

      Here, then, her story continues:

 My Identity: The Transition from Victim to Survivor

      Everyone has an identity. It is who we are and how other people know us by. Unfortunately, tragic events such as sexual abuse can change our identity; can change who we see ourselves to be, and who we strive to be. Majority of the time it changes us for the worse and as I say “us”, I mean ‘we the survivors’. Setting aside the battle of forgiving the perpetrator and praying for their repentance, being a survivor there’s a whole other battle we have to face that deals with no one else other than ourselves.

      After what was done to us and against us we lose our identity. That part of me (specifically) was taken from me at the young age of six. It’s been a battle ever since to find who I am because one single man had the power and manipulation to strip me of my own free will to grow up and decide who I want to be. To the age of twelve, each time something happened my identity was lost . . . further and further into the hands of darkness… Satan. The evil acts done against me acted as a cause and effect type scenario. The cause being the wrongful act done against me and the effect being me seeing my identity with every word associated with everything bad, negative, and wrong.

      My identity quickly shifted from an innocent little girl who liked to play sports to a girl and eventually a woman who would walk around dressed as much as a boy as possible . . . ashamed of who I was, disgusted with what I saw in the mirror. Feeling ugly, guilty, low self-esteem, low self-worth, carried no value, was indecisive, submissive in everything, strived for perfection, and if it was not perfect, anything I did was simply not good enough.

      My identity lied within the hands of the devil because I lived in fear. My identity was lost in the hands of an older man and forced me to live two separate lives. No one knew what was happening until I was 18; for thirteen years I was forced to rely on the identity of two separate lives. Do you know how confusing that is for a young teenage girl? Someone who is trying to appear confident, pretty, fit in at school, excel in sports? All the while pretending that her identity isn’t lost, but consumed by a great wave that caught her in the undertow?

      Stripped of confidence. Something every girl needs in order to carry her head high and shoulders back. The prime time for people to find their identity, something learned in multiple psychology classes, is during their adolescent years. During that time my confidence as a woman was dead. It no longer existed. Again, it lied within the man who took my innocence, and stripped me of my childhood. And every time I saw him any ounce of confidence that I even felt running through my veins, vanished. My identity was that of stolen innocence and stripped of confidence.

      Damaged goods. The biggest identity crisis I have to face as well as any other known survivors and victims. The ailing thoughts of questioning, what did I do to deserve this? How bad of a person am I to make someone want to take everything from me? A time of identity where I should be founded on knowing who I am, rapidly turned into a time of identity of consistently questioning myself and my worth to me and others around me.

      Sense of empowerment. When my perpetrator did everything he did, the amount of times he did, every time I lost power in who I was. My character was developed early on by the power slowly leaving my body, only to be filled with weakness. Strength no longer visible, turned into passiveness. My identity yet again skewed simply due to the wrongful actions of one simple man. What we do as a child, effects how we develop as an adult. A single soul distorted, an identity lost, all because of a soulless sinful act by a perpetrator.  

      I’m not expressing the effect of identity to force people to realize the harsh reality of this traumatic event, but instead to let other know out there that they are not alone. These feelings of sense of loss in belonging, worth, and knowing who you are is not identified in the hands of the sinner who did the wrong, but instead an identity that lies within Christ.

       “When you were dead in your sins, you were not set free from the sinful things of the world. But God forgave your sins, and gave you new life through Christ” Colossians 2:13-14. Our new life – our lost identity – is restored in Christ when sin is brought from the darkness. Our identity is nailed to that cross.

       “And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” Colossians 2:10. If my identity is in Christ then the sense of power is restored because what I lost to sin is regained through the ultimate power, Jesus Christ.

       “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” Galatians 3: 26-27.  Of all those things stripped of me as a child, with my newfound identity in Christ I am reclothed with his richness, no longer stripped away of anything.

       “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” Romans 6:18. The only bonds of identity left to have are those within Christ. The abuse made me a slave to negative thoughts and feelings. Abuse that chained me to living life as damaged goods, a life finally set free with newfound confidence and value in Christ. A life now filled with the bondage of His righteousness and love.

      I once saw myself as someone who was undeserving of love and unable to love in return. However, the more I placed identity in Christ, the more capable I am of allowing people to love me and being able to love others; especially the man who placed this battle in my heart in the first place.

      It was a hard transition, and I still fight every day with it, but the more my trust is in Him the more my identity is made new and made in Christ. Fuck the devil. I am no longer lost in his sinful nature but have found a renewed and beautiful identity… in Christ Jesus. I was a victim of Satan, but now am a survivor in Christ.

       As a survivor, with strength, courage, and confidence I remind you, you are not alone, and it is never too late.

            End “Identity”

     Tony follow-on Post:   I can only tell this formidable young woman that I am honored that she has chosen this space to share with others her very private experiences. She was fortunate in one area, though, in that there was no photographic record of her abuse. Thank God for that. However, while I run the risk of bringing further condemnation down on myself and others who are guilty of ‘just looking at pictures’, let me make my own thoughts on this subject perfectly clear:

      While child sexual abuse exists without child pornography being involved, there is NO child pornography without a child being sexually abused. Each and every photograph of a child being forced, coerced, or persuaded to pose nude, in sexually suggestive positions, or in actual sexual situations is a visual illustration of that child’s personal nightmare. It is a permanent record of that child’s loss of innocence and identity – in most cases by someone he or she is supposed to be able to trust.

      I read somewhere that the federal sentences for possession of child pornography were set by congress to be very tough so that they would be publicized and serve as a deterrent. I daresay that strategy has failed miserably and has caused more damage than it has done good.

      Perhaps a more effective deterrent would be to publish the stories of the nightmares lived on a daily basis by victims of child sexual abuse. I would suggest that reading stories such as the one we have all just read might cause all but the most heartless individuals to give pause, step back, and reconsider any questionable behavior they may be indulging in or considering.

      This world IS in terrible pain and its children are the ones hurting the most. We can’t make all of the pain go away, but we can certainly try.

       Please join me in applauding this young woman and the strength of other survivors just like her.

      For whatever tiny bit of good it may do, I am truly sorry.

      I thank you for your time.

“Giving a Voice to the Victims: Speaking for the Victims of Freedom, Part II”

“Okay, this is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.”   Cormac McCarthy  “The Road”  

” ‘You will succeed’, said the Lord. ‘Go ahead and do it.’ ”   1 Kings 22:22 NLT

“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ ”   Acts   22:10a NLT     

“Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!”   Jesus   Acts 18:9b NLT     

      I was gently informed by the woman who wrote so eloquently about healing and forgiveness, that those who have dealt with sexual abuse consider themselves to be survivors of it as opposed to being its ongoing victims. I applaud her, and those like her. I admire their courage and their ability to control things that happened TO them rather than letting those things control them as human beings.

      There is no way of knowing how many survivors are out there, but it is highly likely that there are many times more who are still victims living day to day with the pain of past – or present – abuse. Some published estimates place the number of females in this country who were sexually abused as children at one out of every three. Similar reports also estimate that the number of males who were sexually abused as children is between 1 in 7 and 1 in 4.

      While politicians push emotional hot buttons in a quest for votes, and media outlets sensationalize tragedy and capitalize on fear in their quest for ratings, studies show that the greatest threat to children does not lie among faceless predators lurking in the community. The most reliable sources available estimate that somewhere between 90-93% of all sexual abuse occurs by a family member or acquaintance.

      In her book “A Nation Of Wimps”, Hara Estroff Marano, award winning author and editor-at-large of Psychology Today writes, “In fact, the greatest threat of child physical and sexual harm arises INSIDE the home, presented by family members, often stepparents, and especially stepfathers……Infants and children who do not live with two biological parents face forty to ONE HUNDRED times the chance of being killed within the family as those who live with both biological parents.”

      Why, then, is so much time, effort, and money spent on these misguided efforts to protect our children from dangers lurking outside the home when the overwhelming majority of incidents occur within?

      Quite likely, it is because of tragic stories such as one I read recently in an Arkansas newspaper about a 16 year old girl whose body was found buried in a barrel on property owned by the family of the prime suspect in her disappearance. The suspect was already a ‘Level 3’ registered sex offender who apparently ‘met’ the girl on a social networking website, struck up some sort of relationship with her and ultimately got her to agree to meet him. The evidence points to her willingly being picked up by him, but it ended horribly for her, and her family and friends.

      The fact that this particular individual was a registered sex offender did nothing to help this poor young woman or keep her safe. To compound the situation, he was a ‘Level 3′ offender. Let’s look at what that means, for therein lies part of the problem we face today, albeit a small part since these types of crimes (for all of the massive amounts of publicity they receive) are relatively rare:

      The suspect in this case had been sentenced in 2001 to ten years in prison. He was released in 2008 after serving about 7 years of his sentence. That original crime? He entered a woman’s home through a window, held a box-cutter to her throat, taped her mouth shut, and raped her.

 Seven years.

      Just to put things in perspective, let me say that I am surrounded by individuals serving 7, 10, even 15 years in prison for looking at pictures. I am most certainly NOT insensitive to the fact that the pictures in question involve children. The individuals involved with the production of these pictures should be dealt with severely. Of that there is no question, but so too should the individual who uses threat of physical harm, or death, to take from a woman (or man, for that matter) that which should only be given freely.

      That woman was a victim. Whether she is a survivor I do not know. I pray that she is and that God has given her some peace and comfort and helped her to heal.

SEVEN years.

      For raping a woman after breaking into her home and threatening her by holding a razor to her throat.

      If this individual had gotten a sentence of, say, 30 years, perhaps the young woman he is now accused of murdering and stuffing in a barrel to be hidden away in an unmarked grave would still be alive, doing the things that 16 year olds do. Perhaps the time will come in this country when crime, criminals, and the victims the crimes create will be dealt with in a manner that is devoid of emotion, haste, sensationalism, and political grandstanding, because the truth of the matter is that dealing with crime – even crimes involving children –  in the heat of emotion makes for bad laws and bad decisions that punish everyone, including the victims of those crimes by taking much needed funding away from where it can do the most good, or by clogging courts and prisons with so many people that the truly violent have to be released to prey again.

      Cases such as this are heartbreaking to the extreme. They are tragic, senseless, and emotionally explosive. They receive hours of air time on television and days of coverage in the newspaper. Grieving parents are sidled up to by politicians drawn to the cameras and the reporters as moths are to a flame. Fists are shaken like sabers before battle and various new laws are passed in haste that pertain to the unique set of circumstances of that particular tragedy.

      Unfortunately, the nest senseless tragedy will be accompanied by its own unique set of circumstances.

      As we seek to make children safer there are those who would argue that what is being done is having a reverse effect. In a passage from “Perverted Justice”, author and forensic psychologist Charles Patrick Ewing writes:

      “From the research, however, it appears that the emperor has no (or very few) clothes. The consensus of empirical research is that these sex offender registration and notification laws have no statistically significant effect on sex offender recidivism and thus fail to provide the protection upon which they are premised and which they promise to the public. Related laws that restrict the residences, workplaces, and movements of sex offenders also appear to do little if anything to reduce recidivism and may have the unintended consequence of making sex offender recidivism more likely because they engender hopelessness in some offenders, impede their contact with social support networks in the community, and create disincentives for pro-social behavior. Moreover, these laws may make citizens (especially children) less rather than more safe because they engender a false sense of security.”

     In an article in “Prison Legal News”, Lt. Ruben Diaz, who heads the sex crimes unit for the Harris County Sheriff’s office in Texas, admitted that it is “very rare to find a perpetrator of a new sex crime among those already in the registry”.

 

     According to a blog called “Sentencing Law And Policy”, the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children states that there are currently 747,408 registered sex offenders in this country, an increase of 25% since 2006 ALONE. The number continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate and is on track to grow another 10% just this year. Those convicted of possession of child pornography make up the largest number of additions to sex offender registries in this country. James Lang, chief of the criminal division of the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts was quoted as saying, “There’s been recognition nationwide that there’s been an epidemic.”

An epidemic indeed.

     The Supreme Court of this great nation has unconscionably legitimized immorality and the removal of God from many aspects of daily life. It has endorsed the absence of any requirement of decency in the way that people live and it has paved the way to the creation of this nation’s obsession and preoccupation with sex.

     As America descends deeper into the depths of depravity and degeneracy, those who have become obsessed are now becoming the obsession itself. Society has become so maniacally obsessed with the sex OFFENDERS that the waves of arrests and the flood of new legislation and restrictions on a select class of citizens’ freedoms and liberties threatens to overturn society and capsize the very core of its existence.

     And all because we have the right to use our freedom in pathetically meaningless and depraved ways that contribute nothing TO the good of mankind and take away much that is good FROM it.

     In the meantime, as local, state and federal governments struggle to find ways to pay for services that taxpaying citizens should have a right to expect, hundreds of millions – indeed, BILLIONS – of dollars are thrown into a cesspool of our own making rather than going to the very agencies that were created to protect children in the first place.

     Every state in the union has some form of child protective agency. Instead of using them for their intended purpose, and growing them to meet today’s special needs, we have turned the FBI into a very ineffective, and very expensive child protective agency while at the same time we reduce funding to these very critical, very well-positioned agencies that were designed to do what the name implies – protect children from neglect and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It is easy to find stories in almost every state about cutbacks in funding. Poorly trained case workers and investigators, and fewer of them in today’s world are things that should not be tolerated by anyone who claims to be a protector of children.

     There is no dispute from any quarter that the overwhelming majority of the dangers that exist to children comes from family, friends, or acquaintances. It should be as obvious as the problem itself that funding for these agencies should be a top priority. More investigators and caseworkers who are better paid and better qualified. More therapists to turn the victims of child sexual abuse into survivors.

     It’s time to take steps that will substantively help these young victims become survivors through education, treatment, and therapy. It’s time to spend money where it will have a positive impact on someone’s life rather than using it to paralyze an entire nation, filling its citizen’s with fear and paranoia about dangers that comprise a small percentage of the damage done to children through sexual and physical abuse and neglect.

     I look forward to one day being able to write about the SURVIVORS of freedom rather than its victims, but until we re-focus our energies, intellect, and resources on solutions that can actually fix problems, we will just continue to incarcerate more people and make their re-entry into society a near impossibility, thereby effectively destroying MORE families and creating hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of victims of another kind.

     It’s time to stop the madness and end the sadness that comes when this nation’s children are victims of freedom not used well.

     I thank you for your time. God bless you and your families.

‘Giving a Voice to the Victims – Speaking for the Victims of Freedom’

“A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes”   Thomas Henry Huxley

“As life unfolds, it is difficult to understand the consequences of our decisions and actions. We start from the right principles, having the noblest of dreams and, in time, we come up against our own monstrosity, the vile and cruel consequence of what we have done.”    From “The Last Pope”   Luis Miguel Rocha

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”  Galatians 5:13 NLT

 Chiseled words of inspiration adorn a low wall on the campus of Penn State University:          “USE WELL THY FREEDOM”

      A federal prison such as the one I am in is filled with individuals who have failed to do that. However, one does not have to be in prison to fail to use freedom in a manner that honors the lives that were lost in obtaining it in the first place, or the millions that have been lost in battle to preserve it since.

      I am sure the Penn State campus is quite large. But still, one has to think that Jerry Sandusky could not help to see those very words many times in all of the years that he was associated with that fine institution. If the charges against him prove to be true, it could safely be said that the meaning implicit in them totally escaped him.

     When freedom is not used well, there are victims…..and far too often, those victims of freedom are children.

     Children inevitably bear the brunt of many of the bad choices and decisions made by adults in the exercising of the freedoms to which we think we are entitled. In many ways, we certainly are entitled to those freedoms. But the freedom to make our own choices and decisions should also carry with it an obligation to make mature, responsible ones that take our children, spouses, friends, neighbors, and society as a whole into consideration as well.

     If that sounds like a lot of responsibility, it is simply because freedom IS an enormous responsibility. Far too often, freedom becomes centered around ‘me’ to the exclusion of anyone else. That is when the victims begin to accumulate, piling on top of one another at a constantly increasing rate until there are so many victims of freedom that is NOT used well that it becomes impossible to count them all or hear their individual cries for help.

     In past articles I have written about what I believe to be the over-use of incarceration in this country and I have expressed my opinion that it would be more prudent to implement more effective ways of dealing with the majority of those individuals who do not use their freedom well.

     In many ways, those of us who are incarcerated are victims of our own decisions on how to use – or misuse – our freedom. This does not exonerate us, excuse us, or render us innocent. Nor does it alter the fact that we are still victims. We are just not the most important, the most affected, or the most damaged ones.

     That distinction, unfortunately, lies with children. The smallest, most innocent, and most vulnerable among us are always the first to fall prey to morals that are pushed aside or freedom that is abused. They are the primary victims of our own selfishness, self-indulgence, and self-centeredness.

     Children are also casualties of constant legal battles engaged in to expand the rights of individuals to act in a manner that ignores the basic responsibilities of human decency, human dignity, and human nature; battles fought to prove that we have the freedom to live our lives as we see fit, with no thought or consideration given to the effects our actions have on our children or the children of others; battles fought to give us the legal right  – the freedom – to ignore the messages we are sending them as to what constitutes appropriate dress, demeanor, morality, or the respect of themselves or others.

     Society today is obsessed with sex. Sex sells everything, so everything must be about sex. We glorify and reward bad behavior and the famous bad men and women who indulge in it. We pay homage to individuals with empty hearts who marry publicly, reap millions in rewards, then shed themselves of what should be a sacred union with the casual attitude one might display in discarding a pair of soiled underwear.

     They are the ones who use their freedom in the most empty, immoral, and meaningless of ways and they are the ones we emulate and try to ‘keep up with’.

     Society whips itself into a frenzy of misplaced morals, improper thoughts, and questionable behavior which ultimately results in lines being crossed, opening the door through which unspeakable horrors enter.

     The children then become the victims of freedom. They are robbed of their childhood, raped of their innocence, and subjected to emotional and physical pain that is impossible to fathom unless one is unfortunate enough to be a victim as well.

     Anyone who doesn’t think that television shows such as ‘Shameless’ promote immoral thoughts and behavior is sadly mistaken. Anyone who doesn’t think that the instant availability of ‘adult’ pornography through 4.2 MILLION websites highlights a serious problem in this country is kidding themselves.

     Forty MILLION United States users visit pornographic websites daily because that is how they choose to use their freedom and their time. There is a website that promises ‘affairs guaranteed’ by connecting people looking for sex outside their marriages. The site proudly boasts 12.2 million members. There is a Smartphone app that uses GPS technology to facilitate instantaneous no-strings gay hookups in 192 countries.

     Are these behaviors what is meant by “USE WELL THY FREEDOM”?

     If you think that these pursuits do not contribute to an immorality that promotes child sexual abuse, you are very, very wrong.

     As our collective moral fiber decays and disintegrates with each blow to decency dealt by an increasingly permissive society clamoring for still more freedom for ‘ME’, an ever-growing number of children become victims who spend lifetimes in hell – trying to climb out – trying to look in a mirror and see goodness and purity after it has been stolen from them by people who have become obsessed with sex and the pursuit of pleasure because that is what society exemplifies as the best way to use our freedom.

     In searching for words to use to convey the nightmare of sexually abused children, I was led to these words written by author Greg Isles in his novel “Blood Memory”:

     “Children suffering prolonged and repeated sexual abuse are living in concentration camps. They’re under the power of despots on whom they depend for their very survival. They suffer terror and torture on a daily basis. Their own siblings, and often their mothers, betray them in the struggle for survival.”

     Harsh, uncomfortable words, some might say. But I suspect that no one who has been sexually abused would think that this even comes close to the reality he or she is living – or has lived – on a daily basis.

     My own insensitivity, immaturity, irresponsibility, and immorality in looking at and possessing child pornography is a personal horror and shame that I live with each day that I wake up in prison. I will continue to live with that shame for the rest of my life, but it pales in comparison to the horrors that the children in those pictures experienced. Perhaps, with proper therapy they can be renewed. Without it, they will doubtless serve a much longer and much harsher sentence than I.

     So then, what am I saying, exactly? Am I calling for harsher sentences for those who have viewed child pornography? No, actually – quite the reverse. This effort to imprison the people who have viewed child pornography only diverts billions of dollars throughout this country from where it can actually do some good. The only winners the way this problem is currently being addressed are those who profit from the illogically harsh first-offense sentences this country uses to solve its problems.

     To try and keep children safe and stem the flow of child sexual abuse in this country by filling our prisons and sex offender registries with misguided individuals who have viewed child pornography can be compared to the approach the government used in the infamous ‘war on drugs’.

     Nationwide, government officials tried for decades to stop the drug trade by ‘picking the low-hanging fruit’ – the drug USERS – and filling our prisons with them, clogging up our courts and costing the taxpayers untold billions of dollars in the process.  However, the drug problem remains a bigger business than it ever was. The only lasting impact in that ill-advised ‘war’ has been to leave the victims of drug abuse with no money to fund treatment or provide help.

     If you pay close attention to what is happening throughout this country today, you will see that the exact same ‘low-hanging fruit’ mentality is at work once again. This time, the ‘low-hanging fruit’ are the viewers of child pornography and the victims are the very individuals who self-serving politicians and law enforcement officials claim they are trying to protect: sexually abused children.

     I’ll explain how this is happening and how sexually abused children can be better protected, better helped, and better healed next time.

Forgiveness – A Choice and A Process

Dear God,

Something came to my heart and I felt a strong desire to write it down in my journal. Lately the word “forgiveness” has been running through my head, and specifically towards a someone who stole my God-given innocence many years ago.  It has been a long process, but I just couldn’t get this out of my head. Is it because it’s a process of mending relationships? Realizing that we as people have our faults and fail on a day-to-day basis? Forgiveness is an every day thing, big or small, and it plays a huge role in all of our relationships. If I could actually grasp the concept and the true identity of forgiveness then just think about how much easier loving people would be. There is so much love to be given, and yet it’s masked with the bitterness and anger that we carry around as baggage. It does not take away pain, or undo the done, but it’s a process, and it’s a choice…

Thoughts on Forgiveness:

First of all there is no such thing as “forgive and forget”. It is impossible for us as humans to do, and those principles are usually taken completely out of context in the bible. My “Someone” is a lost boy and as a believer I should not turn my back on him. The love of Christ that he will see and feel through me (after sinning against me and hurting me terribly) might be the only thing possible for him to find the right path. And I may only be able to maintain positive feelings about him due to the grace of God, but that’s okay.

Second, forgiveness is not a “one time” thing that we do and then move on. True forgiveness is an attitude. Forgiveness does not involve “excusing the act.” In fact, forgiveness is about the inexcusable. Forgiveness does not involve turning a blind eye toward sin, or ignoring or denying it, or even pretending it didn’t happen. That type of response would be indulging in sin rather than dealing with it through the work of forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting to remember—it means remembering to forget. I will remember the offenses, probably every time I see that “someone”.  But when I declare, “I forgive you” I am really saying that I am committing myself NOT to treat “someone” on the basis on what he has done, even though I remember very well what it was. Time is likely to dull the pain, but it is unlikely to ever completely erase the memory.

Third, forgiveness involves both choice and a process. I have made the choice, and now I am involved in the process. The first step in forgiving anyone is by dealing with the sin honestly. I still am confronting the sins committed against me, however Luke 17: 3 says “if your brother or sister sins, rebuke them and IF they repent, forgive them.” The goal of confrontation is to bring about repentance, then forgiveness, then restoration/reconciliation. True forgiveness really requires “someone” to “own” the sins committed against me and to repent of those sins. True repentance goes beyond/deeper than an apology or expression of regret. The biblical definition of repentance describes a change of mind that produces a change of direction. Repentance is more than a feeling of wrongdoing or regret and more than just an apology. Without repentance the process of forgiveness is broken. True forgiveness flows toward true repentance. If “someone” has truly repented (which I’m not certain) then it is more than understandable that I want to forgive and be reconciled with him. And my feeling of that is a reflection of Christ’s love shining through me.

Fourth, Jesus requires us to forgive the repentant. To forgive is to win one’s brother, to reclaim him from the bondage of sin…right? It basically means to release the desire to “get even” or the “right” to require him to pay for what he has done (and specifically done to me).

Fifth, I have to remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is given. Reconciliation is earned. Forgiveness and reconciliation are related, but quite distinct. Forgiveness cancels all debts, but does not eliminate all consequences of it. To be reconciled with my “someone”, they must demonstrate a clear and convincing way that over time they have has changed their attitude and mind about the sins committed against me. They are not to be trusted until his actions reflect his repentant words.

Forgiveness is ultimately an act of the will, not a stirring of emotions. For a flower of Christ, it is a choice to obey God and let it go. So when I say “I forgive you” I have to promise myself to not rehearse in my mind the evil that occurred, and declare that the issue between us is dead. When the painful memories, surface (which they do and always will), I promise myself to take it to the Lord and lay it at the foot of the cross.   C.S. Lewis says “to forgive for the moment is not difficult, but go on forgiving, to forgive that same offense every time it recurs to the memory- that’s the real tussle.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes said “forgiveness has many layers, many seasons. The important part of forgiveness is to begin and to continue. The finishing work of it all is a life work.”

The bible says “God can restore what the locus has eaten.” No matter where I am or what has happened, I am not damaged goods and I am a very special and precious child in His sight. God will use my pain to refine and strengthen me and to sharpen me and to give me compassion and understanding so that he can use me in a mighty way down the road. I just have to trust for now, that God is in control and he has a plan. I cannot let Satan let me suffer twice for the same evil—first what happened to me and what was done against me, and second by hardening my heart towards God.

God works in mysterious ways. A friend told me that taking a step back these last few weeks would be good for us (not pertaining to this) but by doing that I have been able to really focus on myself and fix the things that were going on my life and refocus. Little did I know God would lay this all on my heart and really make me face the facts. This situation took a toll on me these last few months and I was looking for an “out” in all the wrong places. Made me become someone I was not and dependent and needy upon others. It ruined relationships with friends, parents, and even people I cared about in other ways and potentially love. If only I had taken a step back and listened and wasn’t so stubborn, I could have stayed true to myself.

Thank you God, for giving me this opportunity and for the man (who I admire so much) for telling me to “chill”, even though he has things he has to figure out as well. Without that, I don’t know if I would have ever come to this realization. Relationships take work, and the most important one is between you and I. My family, that ‘someone’, my love life, and my friends will all fall into place once if I stay true to the person I know and the woman you have created me to be. I will fail you and others on multiple occasions, but I ask for your forgiveness in that, it’s a process and its one I’m willing to take head on. I love you.

Love,  A Forgiving Victim

Giving A Voice To The Victims

“My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God.”   – Cormac McCarthy , “The Road”

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”    – Psalm 127:3 NLT

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the sea. – Jesus Matthew 18:6 NLT

I pray daily.

I pray from the depths of my heart. Often my prayers go something like this:”Lord give me the wisdom that will enable me to write words that will somehow make a difference in someone’s life. Illuminate my path and lead my heart and my hand to a way of communicating that will help me to do my part to leave this world that you created, and the people in it, in a better way than I found them.”

I struggle with that concept, for the world and the people in it are in dire need of God Himself. What can a mere man do – a man who is in prison, no less – to change or improve anything for anyone?

Praying for an answer to that question, the path is suddenly made clear and I am led to the words of Helen Keller: “I am only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do everything. But still, I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do.”

With the encouragement of my editor and inspired by the courage of a very special individual who wrote to me and wishes to share thoughts about their own struggle with being sexually abused, I have decided that I can do this: I can, in a very small way, give a voice to victims of sexual abuse.

Some cannot or will not speak for themselves, so I will humbly – and most likely inadequately – endeavor to use my voice on their behalf. Others, like the young person who I am sure God is using to help me find my way, will speak for themselves.

That is my hope.

That is my prayer.

That collectively, all of our voices will be heard clearly around the world with the knowledge that, together, we are more than one and with God lighting the way, the something we can do can change things, if only just a little.

We cannot change the whole world. We cannot change everything.  But we can change something. We simply must not refuse to change the something we can.

WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?

–  According to an Associated Press story I read some time ago, forty eight women are raped hourly in the Congo. The article went on to state that 400,000 women were raped in a twelve-month period between 2006 and 2007.

–  A more recent· AP story showed a horrific photo of a fifteen-year-old child bride in Afghanistan who was viciously tortured and sexually abused in her in-laws’ basement for six months. They ripped out her fingernails, broke her fingers, and tortured her with hot irons – all in attempts to force her into prostitution

–  According to a report by RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, in which statistics from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and various others quoted, there are 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in this country. That’s the equivalent of one every two minutes.

– Also according to RAINN, in 1995 (the only year for which I had statistics) local child protection agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse. Of that number, 75% were girls. 30% of them were between the ages of four and seven. Of the assailants, 34% were family members, 59% were family acquaintances. Only 7% were strangers to the victim.

The first person to lend their voice here knew the assailant very well. While the victim does not offer specifics about the abuse or the individual responsible, the victim’s Christian-based thoughts are centered on healing and forgiveness – a healing and forgiveness made possible by a strong support system and the understanding that sustained, professional counseling will help with the pain and suffering, the life-long wounds sexual abuse leaves on a person’s soul.

As society struggles to determine how best to deal with the perpetrators of sexual abuse, the victims struggle to deal with recovering from the abuse itself.

How does one go about reclaiming something that has been taken in a way that leaves the victims feeling responsible somehow? Leaves them feeling less than whole? Leaves them feeling alone, isolated, abandoned and ashamed?

Here, then, is the voice of a victim:

I applaud the courage and determination of the person whose words you find in the next article in this series.  I applaud the commitment to heal and help the one who wronged.

If anyone would like to share a story in a future article or comment without your e-mail address being published, please write to: oakdaletoc@gmail.com.

We did something at least. We can do more.

I thank you.

Send your stories to:      oakdaletoc@gmail.com