Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

Many parents believe that most children are groomed for sexual abuse online or face-to-face by a stranger. But many more times they are groomed by someone they know. Sometimes it’s someone who is living right in their own home! A step parent or live-in partner, a family member or relative. In fact, children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner that is not the biological parent of the child are 30 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents. But alert parents can often stop a sex offender before he or she harms a child.

Here are some of the things every parent should know: 

  • One in four children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  • Ninety percent of children are sexually abused by people they know well, including immediate family members.
  • Child sex abuse isn’t limited to sexual intercourse. It also includes oral sex, genital contact, deliberately introducing a child to pornography and exposing one’s genitals to a child.
  • In the vast majority of cases, children who report sex abuse are telling the truth.
  • Fewer than 5 percent of children who have been sexually abused actually report it, and fewer than 5 percent of perpetrators are arrested.
  • Some sex offenders make a concerted effort to get access to children and often target parents and children they see as vulnerable.
  • Single mothers and their children are especially vulnerable, since many of them have little or no outside support.
  • Sex offenders often position themselves as the “hero” saving the mother and child from a difficult or unhappy situation.
  • Sex offenders don’t pounce immediately. They may spend weeks or months “grooming” a child, working to make a child feel special by showering him or her with gifts, special activities and outings, and attention. They may approach the mother with offers to lessen the burden on her, such as watching a child after school every day for free.
  • Sex offenders will work to break down a child’s natural inhibitions. These behaviors include “accidental” touching, insisting that the child sit on the offender’s lap, roughhousing, tickling, massages,”accidentally” walking in on a child undressing, showering, or using the toilet. It usually escalates later to showing pornography to a child, photographing a child (in either sexual or non-sexual poses) and providing a child with alcohol or drugs.
  • Sex offenders rarely stop at one victim.

Most parents never suspect that a family member or a trusted friend would sexually abuse their child so they don’t even realize that person has been grooming their child until after the abuse has happened. We must understand that groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified and the signs of grooming aren’t always obvious.

If a child is being groomed by someone in the home they may:

  • Be very secretive about what they are doing and where they go.
  • Spend an inordinate amount of time alone with the much older person.
  • Come home with gifts such as new toys, clothes or cell phones.
  • Have unexplained changes in behavior or personality.
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior for their age.

Once they have established trust, groomers will exploit the relationship by making the child (and their mother) feel dependent on them. Which is why many mothers may hide the abuse rather than report it. The abuser will use any means of power and control to make a child and mother believe that they have no choice but to allow the abuser to do what they want. To hide their abuse the abuser may introduce “secrets” as a way to control or frighten the child. In many cases the abuser will convince the child’s mother that it is the child’s fault in order to stop them telling anyone about the abuse.

Because child sex abuse has become so prevalent in our society today, it is important for parents to be vigilant in protecting their children from predators that may be living with them. Even in cases where the abuser is arrested and charged, many times the perpetrator is only sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender.

But in many states the Sex Offender Registration law does not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. In Nebraska for example, the SOR law does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or other vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. In some cases the perpetrators are even allowed to have contact with their victims!

Why don’t our legislators care more about our children?

A senator is called to, among other things, to:

  • Represent the people and the best interests of his or her legislative district.
  • Right injustices involving the public.
  • Establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed.

I have written to many senators concerning the outdated SOR laws with no success. Legislators have done little or nothing to change the SOR laws so that victims of child sexual abuse are better protected.

As a parent you must recognize that YOU are responsible to protect your child. You may face a difficult dilemma in these circumstances, but you are not helpless. If your child has disclosed abuse, and your spouse or partner has access to your child, you must deny that access. It is important that your child know that you believe them and support them. It is also important that your child be in ongoing therapy so that they have a safe place to talk about their concerns. By law you may be unable to totally keep them from their abuser, but you can petition the court to only allow the abuser supervised visits with the child. Therapist’s recommendations are often used by the court to determine what is in the best interest of the child’s welfare and safety. It is also important that you be in ongoing therapy as well to address issues related to your child’s abuse.

What else can a parent do?

Keep a log of interactions and concerning behaviors of your child’s abuser. Maintain a log of all suspicious statements made by the child. If the child discloses additional abuse, immediately report to Child Protective Services and to law enforcement. Consult with the child’s therapist and voice your concerns. If child sexual abuse is revealed, by law the therapist must report it. Your hope is that with time and additional reports to Child Protective Services, that the abuser will be arrested and charged.

Talk to your child at an early age. Include sex abuse awareness among the safety precautions you teach your kids. Just as you tell them to watch for cars when crossing the street, teach them that no one should touch their private parts and tell them it’s okay to refuse a hug or other contact that makes them uncomfortable—Regardless if it’s Grandpa Joe or “Mommy’s new friend.”

If you’re squeamish about discussing sex with your kids…Get over it! This is not about you. Let your kids know that they can talk to you about sex and sexual abuse. Give them age-appropriate sex education and use proper names for all body parts. Find books that parents and children can use to help prevent sex abuse.

If your child tells you that he or she has been touched inappropriately, don’t start grilling your child for details. Instead, simply tell them that you believe them; that it’s not their fault; and immediately call law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. Children who are possible sex abuse victims should be interviewed only by professionals. The police and Child Services are trained for this and are always willing to deal with the interview part.

Most of all, trust your gut and stand your ground. If another person’s words or actions regarding your child are setting off alarm bells, say “no.” And if your “no” is ignored, then you need to terminate the relationship.

It is important to know that if you neglect to report the abuse, you may be charged with child endangerment and your child may be removed from your home and placed in foster care.

Other helpful resources:

Darkness 2 Light http://www.d2l.org

Rainn (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-can-i-protect-my-child-sexual-assault

National Sexual Violence Resource Center http://www.nsvrc.org/projects/child-sexual-assault-prevention/preventing-child-sexual-abuse-resources

Many people have been led to believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws of their state protects children from pedophiles that may be living near their home or their children’s school. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in many states does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

In other words, a registered sex offender is able to legally visit and work at schools, playgrounds, children’s museums, daycare centers and other places where vulnerable children may congregate.

First we have to distinguish between the types of sex offenders. All rapists, whether they are violent or not, are criminals. There are also sex offenders (public exposure, unwanted sexual advances) who, while they committed a crime, are not rapists and who are not violent. But when we are talking about keeping children safe, many parents are concerned about pedophiles. But not all sex offenders are pedophiles. So lumping all sex offenders together does not really add any marginal value to keeping our children safe. The person who got drunk and raped a woman is a criminal, but not a pedophile.

Politicians want you to think that registries are effective because politicians have put a lot of political capital and attention into registries. They want you to think that placing sex offenders on the registry is proof that they are keeping your child safe. But simply focusing on the registry, they neglect to focus on that the real threat to a child. The problem is that the politicians aren’t advocating evidence-based approaches, and aren’t focusing on the fact that more than 90 percent of people who commit child sexual abuse is well known to the victim. The majority of the time that child sex abuse is reported, it is committed by someone who is a trusted family member. On top of that, the majority of children never report sexual abuse when it’s happening. They’re often afraid of their parents’ reactions or fear getting into trouble. They also might believe the abuser when they tell them that something bad would happen if they tell.

We always hear about the sex offender who was on the registry and reoffended, but these high profile cases are reported because they make for good stories for the news media. But such recidivism is not representative of what is going on the majority of the time.

A parent might believe that if they check the local sex offender registry it will help to keep their children safe. The question then is: what else have they done in addition to checking the registry? The people that we need to be worried about the most are not the ones we know are on the sex offender registry.

Children need to be taught safety skills

Parents need to realize that the person most likely to sexually abuse their child is someone they know and trust, and someone who has regular contact with their child. This known and trusted person is likely to violate the trust of the family and child. That is why it is important for a child to have the tools needed to protect themselves from these trusted persons, and to know when to speak up when the trust is violated.

It is not only important for parents to educate their children, but schools need to educate their students too. Because sometimes the abuse is happening at home. And parents and educators need to be properly trained how to identify when a child is being victimized.

I am not advocating that we eliminate sex offender registries. Parents and the public should want to know who has committed sex offenses that may be living near them. And since all criminal records are public information, this information should not be suppressed.

My point is that the sex offender registry is about as effective in stopping child sexual abuse as using a BB gun against a home invader—you might get lucky by using it, but it won’t be a very effective deterrent. The public needs to start to understand that sex offender registries don’t keep people safe the way they think because of the nature of how predators operate when building and then violating trust. That is why the real threat is likely to come from someone known and trusted by the family. The statistics are very clear about this.

Warning Signs

Everyone can take steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children. The web site, stopitnow.org provides prevention tip sheets that can help you take action to keep children and youth safe, whether it’s making a family safety plan, finding a safe school or camp, or safety on the internet.

Signs that a child has been abused:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects.
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems.
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy.
  • Becoming unusually secretive.
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings.
  • Regressing to younger behaviors, e.g. bedwetting, thumb sucking.
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people.
  • Outburst of anger.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts.
  • Self-harm. (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular person.

Behaviors to watch for when adults are with children:

  • Makes others uncomfortable by ignoring social or physical boundaries.
  • Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits.
  • Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even.
  • when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.
  • Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom.
  • Turns to a child for emotional or physical comfort normally shared with adults.
  • Has secret interactions children.
  • Spends excessive time emailing, text messaging or calling children.
  • Insists on or manages to spend uninterrupted time alone with a child.
  • Frequently babysits children for free; takes children on special outings alone; buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.

Since the courts, judges and politicians will do little or nothing to protect our children from sexual predators, it is up to adults, parents and teachers to educate ourselves and our children on the dangers of sexual abuse.

You can find more tips at: http://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/warning-signs

Over the years I have written songs with lyricist Tom White, who is also my longtime friend and brother in Christ. Even though we are now miles apart we still collaborate on songs through the internet. He recently sent me lyrics to use in a song. I will be working on the music in the coming days, but the words are so intensely descriptive that I couldn’t wait to share them with you.

These Hands by Tom White

They reached down to pick her up, dry her tears then tenderly lifted her off the ground/They brushed off her clothes so gently and then lovingly placed her on the Merry go round/They offer her some ice cream or some candy, a vile threat presented as a special treat/ Warning her that if she shares this secret with anyone she’ll get hurt and end up alone on the street

And those hands—hands that are meant to protect are used to abuse, to injure, and neglect/And those hands—hands that are meant to defend/They rush to crush life to bring about its end/Who will protect the innocent? Who will raise their voice for the silent one? Who will, without fail, shine a light to expose the unspeakable things in shadows done?

Forty five minutes off the bus she finds the streets are cruel/She ran from the prison called home to find more of the same/Her body becomes a token used over and over again by men and women too many to name/She cries out to God for mercy, hoping against hope Where the thought of escape becomes a nightly dream/But each day she’s bought and sold like a piece of meat/And all she can do is silently scream

And those hands—hands that are meant to protect/Are used to abuse, to injure, and neglect/And those hands—hands that are meant to defend/They rush to crush life to bring about its end/Who will protect the innocent? Who will raise their voice for the silent one? Who will, without fail, shine a light to expose the unspeakable things in shadows done?

Your life goes on while children are defiled/The sex traffic lights are all blinking green/If you ignore it soon enough it should go away/Then the problem will be unheard, unknown and unseen/But Christ hears the cries of the least of these/And calls us to be his voice, his hands and feet/To live outside the stained glass windows/So that we, like him, can hear the cries from the street

So that hands—our hands, can truly protect/We can lift up and encourage and deflect/Yes those hands—your hands, can defend/ Like a shepherd, like a brother, like a friend/Protecting the innocent starts with you/Raise your voice and speak up for the silent one/Shine a light so bright that it will expose/The unspeakable things in shadows done

Miryam Rabinowitz is a filmmaker on the east coast who spearheaded “Still Feeling” as an experiment based on her own experiences of childhood sexual abuse. What she found in the research about healing from child sexual abuse was the power of interconnectivity. And that the greatest threat to a victim’s healing process is isolation. The emotional disconnect between victims and their families and communities can be attributed to fear, and an inability to relate to one another.

This film features four artists who are elevating their experiences of child sexual abuse through artistic expression and demonstrate the beauty of human resilience. Rabinowitz  started a Kickstarter campaign where she still needs to raise $15,000 of her $25,000 goal. These funds will be used to begin the production of her first segment.

The goal is for this documentary is for victims to feel validated, and for the people around them to be able to say, “Now I understand.”  

Click here to become a supporter, and visit her website at: www.stillfeeling.org to learn more out the film.

Between 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse in the United States every day. The actual number is most likely higher because many victims are coerced or threatened not to tell, so many incidents go unreported. 90% of victims were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well—A step-parent, relative, family friend or caretaker.

Many adult survivors of child sexual abuse struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety attacks, insomnia, depression, and self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. Only a few have been helped with therapy.

But sadly, many victims of child sexual abuse go unnoticed in our school districts because teachers and school administrators are not properly trained on how to spot a victim of child sexual abuse.

Hope For Victims

A curriculum has been developed by Senator Lauren Book of Florida, (M.S. Ed) with a team of educators and psychologists to teach children critical personal safety information in a age appropriate way called, “Safer, Smarter Kids”. Effectiveness testing has showed a 77% gain in children’s knowledge of critical personal safety information after completing the program.

For more information on the “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum you can visit: https://safersmarterkids.org/teachers/curriculum/ 

1 in 5 children are abused, molested and raped in their own homes every day! And even when the perpetrators are arrested and charged, most judges only sentence them to probation! Child abuse and neglect can have long lasting effects on people that cost the United States over $124 billion each year.

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0201_child_abuse.html

Millions of abused people are walking around our communities right now struggling with low-self esteem, delinquency, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Simply because no one spoke up for them when they were being abused as a child.

So what can we do to prevent this epidemic? Write to your senators and representatives in congress demanding that they introduce bills to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes against children and reform the Sex Offender Registration law so that it protects our children.

Many people believe that the Sex Offender Registry laws protects children from predators. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in many states does not prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons.

Since last year I have written to the Nebraska governor and 20 senators as well as the president. I mailed seven more letters today. I recently received a response from three Nebraska senators letting me know that they have introduced bills in support of stricter punishment for sex offenders. Unfortunately these bills do nothing to protect victims of child sexual abuse.

I am only one person. Imagine what would happen if more people did the same.

Below is a sample letter that you can copy and paste and add names and addresses to. Feel free to forward this to your friends. I believe that together we CAN prevent child sexual abuse.

 

Your Name

Your Address

Senator’s Name

Senator’s Address

Dear Senator,

I am writing to you because many politicians speak out against human sex trafficking and have proposed all kinds of bills to fight against it. But very few (if any) bills have been introduced to protect children from perpetrators who sexually abuse children in their own homes.

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse in the United States. The actual number is most likely higher because many incidents go unreported. 90% of victims were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well—A step-parent, relative, family friend or caretaker. And 69% occurred in the victims’ home. Children’s Advocacy Centers served more than 311,000 children around the country in 2014. Two-thirds of the children served (205,438) disclosed sexual abuse.

The Sex Offender Registration law in most states do not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in these states also does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

The police do their job and arrest these criminals, but then the lawyers and judges allow them to plead guilty to a lesser charge and hand down light sentences or probation that allows them to re-offend, placing the public at risk. Many times there is more severe punishment for someone who abuses animals than for someone who abuses children. This should not be!

There should be a federal law in place to hold perpetrators of sexual child abuse accountable and reforms made to the SOR law so that it protects our most vulnerable citizens—our children.

Sincerely,

Your Signature

Your Printed Name