Posts Tagged ‘child sexual abuse’

The U.S. is now less than a year away from the most consequential election, and not one of the remaining presidential candidates has prioritized addressing child sexual abuse (CSA) as a platform issue. 

Many of these survivors of CSA are now adult voters and they aren’t just people looking for services. They are constituents looking for a change to the system. They are working people, taxpayers and consumers who push through their trauma every day— despite being erased by a world that tells them they aren’t as important as the economy and climate change. The MeToo movement began to shed light on the behavior of wealthy and powerful predators, but the media and politicians are more focused on sexual harassment in the workplace than on the sexual assaults on children taking place in our homes across the country! 

If it is traumatic for a grown woman to be groped or sexually assaulted by a man, how much more traumatic must it be for a 7, 8 or 9 year old to be sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust?

90% of victims of CSA know their abuser well. Many of them live in the same home with them. And even when a perpetrator is arrested and convicted, most judges only sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender. But 23 states in America place no restrictions on child sex offenders. So many of them return to and continue their daily lives without much consequence or repercussions. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental, emotional and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. 

A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But many times the mandated reporter is also the perpetrator! 

President Trump recently made animal cruelty a felony. But there is no federal law that places restrictions on convicted perpetrators of CSA. In fact, there are stricter restrictions on those who abuse animals than for those who abuse children!

With no presidential candidate that seems willing to publicly grapple with this bipartisan issue, we must raise our voices and demand that the men and women who want to represent us in the White House, as well as those in local political offices, speak directly to and respond to this national epidemic. And it is especially important that adult survivors of CSA speak out.

Many politicians often say that children are our future. But what kind of future will we have if millions of our children will be wounded adults who struggle with emotional and mental problems because of childhood trauma? 

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us? We deserve a country that values the safety of our children, since our future well being and prosperity depends on it.

Many are wondering why the world has become so ugly and hate filled—even by those who claim to be God’s people. The Bible gives us a very direct answer:

“Where there is no prophetic vision or divine guidance, the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who obeys God’s law.” (Proverbs 29:18)

What is this prophetic vision or divine guidance? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) If a people do not hear and obey God’s Word, then we can only expect society to break down—even within local churches. 

We see it within our own government officials and throughout the world. With the next presidential election coming up this year we hear all kinds of promises from the candidates: Immigration reform, equality for women, ending sex trafficking, Medicare for all, free college education, higher minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for it all. 

But do you know what won’t be mentioned in any of the speeches? Human rights for children, how to prevent sexual abuse of children and how to protect children from pedophiles living in their own homes or employed at their schools and daycares.

It was recently reported that at least 56 Nebraska educators were linked to sexual misconduct since 2014! Fifty six! And that’s only the ones who were reported! 

At least 74 students or recent high school graduates were victimized. In some cases, the abuse occurred years before the perpetrators were caught!  

  • In return for pictures of a 14-year-old student’s naked breasts, a Norfolk student teacher bumped the girl’s grade from a 79 to a 95. (He was only sentenced to six months in jail)
  • A Loup City teacher set up a camera in a locker room to spy on high school girls changing their clothes. 
  • An Omaha middle school math teacher groomed and then sexually assaulted a female student in his classroom during lunch.

A national expert said less than 10% of abused students tell somebody about the abuse because of fear, guilt or a misguided desire to protect the educator.

(read more at https://www.omaha.com/news/plus/i-m-really-disgusted-to-see-that-number-nebraska-educators/article_3fd2f36a-d6d2-59ae-baab-74fbb029f90c.html)

While many will be outraged by this, (and rightly so) they may be ringing their hands and asking, “How could this happen?” The truth is the reason there is so much immorality today is because God’s Word is not obeyed. And God’s way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30) But the real danger lies in defiling a holy God by transgressing His boundaries. Our God is a God of justice, and “the ways of man are before the eyes of the Jehovah, and all his ways He observes.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Stories of racism and anti-semitism has been in all of the news outlets lately. I just want to say that I love the people of Israel. But I also love the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia—Just as much as I love the mixed people living in the United States. The problem is not the people, but the political and military leaders of these people. 

It is time that the God fearing people in the world today put away their hate, repent, turn back to God and pray for our enemies. Remember: 

“You are far across the ocean in a war that’s your own—And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home—Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace—Is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” — Great American Novel by Larry Norman

 

 

Last year in Texas, there were 58,644 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect. That’s one child victimized every 9 minutes!

60% of these victims were 6 years old or younger!

If these statistics aren’t sobering enough, 48,795 children were in Texas’ child protection system – a system that in December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled it failed to protect the children in its care – ultimately violating their constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. 

The 2016 Department of Family & Protective Services Data Book revealed that 222 children died due to abuse or neglect! If that many pets were killed from abuse, every news outlet across the country would be reporting on it! But when a child dies from abuse there is rarely more than a blip on the news outlets! 

In 2017 New Hampshire’s nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the state and the Division for Children, Youth & Families for the alleged sexual assaults on two young girls while in DCYF care.

Bedford attorney Rus Rilee sued the state, Easter Seals of New Hampshire and CASA NH on behalf of the adoptive parents of two girls, J.B. and N.B., who were “horrifically” sexually assaulted by their biological parents while the DCYF, CASA and Easter Seals were supposed to be supervising the case, according to the lawsuit. 

The biological parents are serving life prison sentences after they were convicted of assaulting the girls during unsupervised visits arranged by the DCYF and CASA, and videotaping the assaults. The girls were ages 4 and 18 months at the time. 

But Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson ruled that the judicial immunity that protects a judge from legal action extends to CASA-NH, because its volunteers act as an arm of the court by advocating for the interests of abused children. Abramson explained that CASA’s role in recruiting, training and supervising volunteers, known as “guardians ad litem,” entitles the organization to the same immunity protections. Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents the children’s grandparents, appealed Abramson’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

In May of 2018 the state had agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle a suit brought by the grandparents of two young girls who were sexually abused by their parents while under the supervision of New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. 

Under the settlement, each child will receive $3.125 million and their grandparents, who have adopted the girls, will receive $500,000. The money will come from the state’s general fund and be released as soon as Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson officially signs off on the deal, said Rus Rilee, the attorney representing the family. “They’re not doing well.” Rilee said. “They need serious treatment. And now they’re going to be able to afford it.” 

CASA volunteers, mostly middle class and overwhelmingly white, march into the homes of people who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately people of color. Then they pass judgment on the families and recommend whether they should get their children back. Judges routinely rubber-stamp their recommendations. The demographic information, and the information about judges’ behavior, can be found in the most comprehensive study ever done of CASA – a study commissioned by the National CASA Association itself.

But that wasn’t all the study found. As Youth Today reported at the time, the study “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers”:

  • The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.
  • The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety—so all that extra foster care is for nothing. 
  • The study found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases as the organization’s public relations may lead people to believe.

CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and 2.67 hours per month on cases involving black children.

No matter how desperately they try to spin the findings, the problem is built into the CASA model itself. So they need a better model.

CASAs still can perform a useful service as mentors to foster children and in advocating for services. But children need a real voice in court, a lawyer with a mandate to fight for what is best for the child, and not what’s most convenient for the courts.

I have experienced this myself when CPS placed our grandson in our care. Over a period of months, a CASA worker only visited us one time—and even then, only spent a few minutes talking to us long enough to sign some papers—and never even spoke to our grandson!

DHHS was even worse. Although our grandson’s pediatrician, the pediatrician’s phycologist, and our grandson’s former therapist all agreed that he needed further therapy, DHHS refused to allow us to take him to therapy. We even offered to pay for his therapy ourselves, but they still refused. Their reason? Our grandson had already graduated six weeks of family and group therapy and therefore did not need more therapy.

I don’t believe these are isolated cases.

When children enter the long-term care of the state, there is a general perception that they’ve been saved, and no further help for them is needed. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The sad reality is that kids languishing in foster care means a lifetime of damage and trauma; and they tend to experience bleak outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, mental health illnesses and attachment and abandonment issues.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us?

“He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” (John 10:12)

Many Christians in mainline denominations have expressed righteous sadness and outrage at the sexual crimes within the Catholic Church. And yet refuse to acknowledge the same sin within their own churches and homes. 

And those who speak out about sexual abuse in churches are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them. They may be accused of seeking attention, or of trying to bring down a godly man. They may be told to be quiet or they will be causing shame on the congregation and will cause people to turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in. After all, these abusers don’t just groom victims—they groom congregations and communities, in hopes that the majority will rise up and protect them.

Many church leaders try to deal with sexual abuse “in house” in order to keep their “little secret” from the community because they are more concerned about their reputation in the community than they are for the victims of sexual abuse. Ironically, this is the same method used by almost all pedophiles—Keep it secret, threaten and shame their victims. The result of all of this is that many young people are leaving their churches and even leaving behind their traditional faith.

According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously.  Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct. 

“I believe the gaps are generational in that the younger generation has had it with fakery, and they are bent toward telling it like it is, whereas older generations grew up with the ‘don’t tell secrets’ unwritten mandate. To be sure, both ages have experienced sexual abuse, but younger believers are more apt to share them,” said Mary DeMuth, a survivor of child sexual abuse and an advocate.

More than 90 percent of church goers said their churches were safe places for children, teens, and adults, and more than 80 percent believed their leaders would not cover up misconduct and would bear the cost of addressing incidents correctly, LifeWay found. 

These findings reveal that congregations assume the best about themselves and assume the best about their leadership. Unfortunately, these churchgoers’ optimistic views do not match up with the reality of a majority of churches. 

In spite of the #metoo movement and so many speaking out and publicly, sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse, major investigations have still uncovered hundreds of victims among Protestant churches, while allegations of abuse among missionary kids and within other evangelical organizations continue to come out. 

In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul had to deal with a similar problem in a congregation. His advice? “Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and removed from your fellowship the man who did this?” 

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. This sin needs to be stopped and repented of! Otherwise, our light will be snuffed out. 

It is a sad day indeed when the world tells the Church it needs to repent…and they’re right.

Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein all have inspired the #metoo movement. Many celebrities came forward (and continue to do so) to publicly relate their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men.

Sadly, the public has remained silent when it come to the same thing perpetrated on children.  

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 683,000 children experienced some form of child maltreatment in 2015. Child sexual abuse is just one kind of maltreatment, and it happens with alarming frequency. Because of the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and children’s dependence on their perpetrators, this type of crime often goes unreported. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But there is no federal law requiring mandated reporting except for professionals, (teachers, nurses, doctors) so many instances of child sexual abuse go unreported. 

Researchers have found that people tend not to report abuse when there are no bruises or other physical signs and avoid contacting authorities based on suspicions alone even though mandated reporting laws require them to do so. This has become even more prevalent when the perpetrator is a family member living with the child.

These types of egregious failures happen more frequently in our court system, despite the laws in place to deter them from shirking from their responsibility. 90 percent of those convicted of sexually abusing a child living in their home are allowed to plead guilty to a lesser crime and are sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender. 

Many mistakenly believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws (SOR) keep children in their community safer. Nothing could be further from the truth! The SOR law in most states do not place any restrictions on registered sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victims! Thus, allowing perpetrators to continue their abuse without consequences! 

I have written to the Nebraska governor and over 20 Nebraska state legislators pleading with them to make changes in the SOR law to better protect our children. The very few that responded, (less than 8) told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? The Nebraska Senate website states that a senator is called (among other things) to: 

  • Represent the people and the best interests of his or her legislative district
  • Appropriate funds to protect property and persons 
  • 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 

The health and social impacts of child sexual abuse on a survivor last a lifetime and affect us all socially and financially. Delinquency and crime, often stemming from substance abuse, are more prevalent in adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse. Adults survivors are also more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Child sexual abuse is costing taxpayers over $200 billion each year! The costs include: 

  • Mental and physical healthcare costs 
  • Criminal justice costs 
  • Child welfare costs 
  • Special education costs 
  • Productivity losses 
  • Academic problems 
  • Teen pregnancy 
  • Sexual behavior problems

I know there are many who would rather I remain silent on this subject—at the very least stop using my religious beliefs as a solution to the problem. But I happen to know that the Bible IS the solution to this problem. But most don’t want to follow it. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) 

But I will not go quietly into the night. I will not remain silent without a fight. Just as Tom Petty sang, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

 

Why am I so passionate about this? Because child victims of abuse are rarely in a position to advocate for themselves. Since their safety depends on adult intervention, it is absolutely critical that adults stand up and speak out for victims of child sexual abuse, or any type of child abuse—Publicly and loudly. If not, we will all be judged by what we did or did not do to prevent it. 

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

 

Many children today complain about having to do small chores at home. But there was a time in this country when young children were routinely legally forced to work at hard labor right alongside their adult counterparts. During the 1900s children, often as young as 10 years old and younger, were forced into manual labor. They worked not only in industrial settings such as textile factories, but also in coal mines, retail stores, on the streets, and in home-based industries. 

Children from lower class families were frequently employed, whereas the concern about idle youths did not appear to be one shared by the upper classes. Well-to-do fathers in the early 1900s believed that it was their duty to work for their children, plan for them, spend money on them, buy life insurance for their protection, afford them a good education and teach them to be upstanding citizens. But lower income families were forced to use their children to help with the home’s finances without the luxury of saving for their futures. 

By the turn of the 20th century, the labor that the children of the working class performed were varied. In rural areas, young boys, some reportedly under age 14, toiled in mines, sometimes working their fingers literally to the bone, breaking up coal. While young boys in urban areas often earned their living as newspaper carriers known as “Newsies”. In many towns, mills and glass factories regularly employed young girls and boys. 

Although many child laborers, such as the Newsies, worked in plain view of others on city streets, many did not. While their coal-stained faces have now become known through pictures, at the time, the children who worked in mines labored in relative obscurity. Some labored in the mines as “trappers,” others were known as “breaker boys,” and many worked as “helpers.” The trapper’s sole job was to sit all day waiting to open a wooden door to allow the passage of coal cars. These doors, which were part of the mine’s ventilation system, required opening between 12 and 50 times a day. During the rest of the time, the boy sat in dark idleness next to the door. 

Although less monotonous, the job of the breaker boys was likely more dangerous. Their job was to use a coal breaker to separate slate and other impurities from coal before it was shipped. To do so, these boys, some as young as 14, were precariously positioned on wooden benches above a conveyor belt so they could remove the impurities as the coal rushed by.  At times, the dust from the passing coal was so dense that their view would become obscured. Other child coal laborers worked as helpers. Journeymen miners frequently hired their own helpers, and some parents hired their own children to perform this role. These children were not usually employees of the mine but were instead paid out of the wages of the journeymen. And if the child worker did not fulfill his duties well they could expect brutal blows to the head or other physical abuse.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the numbers of child laborers in the U.S. peaked. Child labor began to decline as the labor and reform movements grew and labor standards in general began improving, increasing the political power of working people and other social reformers to demand legislation regulating child labor. 

But it wasn’t until The Great Depression that political attitudes in the United States changed, especially surrounding child labor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” sought to prevent extreme child labor. And almost all of the codes under the National Industrial Recovery Act significantly reduced child labor. Overall, these laws were successful, not only to the generally widespread disapproval towards child labor, but also because many previously unemployed adults became employed once children were limited in the workforce. 

Violations of the child labor laws today continue among the agricultural industry. Despite the existing laws regarding forced child labor, some children are still forced to labor excessive numbers of hours with their migrant parents or hold prohibited jobs. 

There has been discussions for some time now about paying reparations to descendants of slaves. Some refer to the reparations that were paid to the Japanese Americans who were held in the internment camps during WWII as a reason to do the same for descendants of slaves. So along that line of thinking, maybe reparations should be paid to descendants of the children of forced labor too?

In recent years people have discovered a new and even more evil way to exploit children that is also more profitable: Human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, in most cases of child sexual abuse, victims are not treated much differently by the courts today than they were in the 1930s. They are still treated as second class citizens and are not recognized as having any real rights. The courts and lawyers are more concerned with working a plea deal for the abuser than getting justice for the under age plaintiffs.

It is estimated by the CDC that 1 in 6 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Most will be sexually abused by someone they know well and trust. Because of the trauma this causes, many survivors of child sexual abuse suffer a life of PTSD, depression, anxiety and are at higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction and other criminal activity. 

Many of these children are taken from their families and placed in foster care where they are abused again. And 90% of those convicted of child sexual abuse will only be sentenced to probation and placing absolutely no restrictions on them. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!  

Clearly, the United States still has much to do to eliminate the abuses and violations of vulnerable children. To make matters worse, it seems that our legislators don’t really care about protecting our children. I have written to more than 20 Nebraska legislators asking them to place restrictions on those convicted of child sexual abuse. I also sent a petition to the Nebraska legislators though change.org with over 8,000 supporters. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? Many legislators are concerned with stopping sex trafficking, but trying to solve sex trafficking without working on the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the home is like having a doctor prescribe cough syrup for someone with lung cancer. 

If half as many people spoke out and organized marches to protest the sex offender registration laws as they do to protest gun control, equal rights and sexual harassment in the work place, maybe our legislators would do something to change it.

One day perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be held accountable for their actions. But so will all the people who refused to speak up for the victims.   

Vince Gill – Forever Changed

Some may wonder why I’m so passionate about being an advocate for abused children and survivors of child sexual abuse.

Maybe it’s because I was abused as a child myself—verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Maybe it’s because of the trauma I suffered I ended up in the hospital for anemia. Maybe it’s because I became a target for even more abuse and bullying throughout my school years. 

And because I desired so much to be accepted and loved that I suffered many failed relationships and a few failed marriages. But in spite of all this I still tried to serve God the best way he could: Ministering to the homeless, organizing youth events in churches, starting a home Bible study group, using my musical talents to reach others for God. But it seemed that nothing I did worked out.  

To make things worse, Christians ridiculed me for my “new beliefs” while unbelievers accused him of being gay because I didn’t chase after women. But there is one person who truly loves me and continues to believe in me. A few years after reconnecting with a girl I knew from high school, we were married and have been happily married for over 12 years now.

Maybe I became an advocate for abused children because a trusted friend from church ended up sexually abusing my own 13 year old son. Maybe it’s because I reported it to CPS and nothing was done. Or maybe it’s because me and my wife discovered that our own grandchildren were abused as children. Maybe it’s because I have witnessed how perpetrators convicted of child sexual abuse are only sentenced to probation and allowed to have contact with other children.

But even after all I’ve been through, I still refuse to remain silent about those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. I writes to legislators, asking them to change the sex offender registry laws, I write to judges, asking them not to be so lenient on those convicted of child sexual abuse.  And even though I have not received any positive responses, I am even more determined than ever to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

Maybe you feel the same way—That nothing that you have tried has worked out. But Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” 

I didn’t fail to serve God. I just found several ways NOT to serve God. I only needed to find that one thing that God wanted me to do. And I think I found it in being a strong advocate for victims and survivors of child abuse like me.  

If you are a survivor of child abuse, maybe you too should consider being an advocate. It will not only help heal those who have survived childhood trauma, it will also help you to heal as well. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

One Thing

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

 

Diversity has made our Nation a more vibrant and open society—in ideas, perspectives, and innovations. But the full potential of our diverse, multicultural society cannot be realized until ALL Americans, including racial and ethnic minorities, gain access to quality health care that meets their needs. Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services, are less likely to receive needed care, and when they do receive care, it is more likely to be poorer in quality than whites. This is especially true when it comes to mental health issues in children.

My friend, Denisha Seals, has authored the book, “Butterflies In Me”. It is a children’s picture book designed to create open discussions and critical thinking about the mental health challenges minority children face—which are often ignored. I have read both the “Butterflies In Me” book and companion work book and I highly recommend it to families, therapists, and schools. 

Denisha was sexually abused when she was 5 years old. Her experience led her to suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression. “Throughout the years of therapy no professional diagnosed me.” She says. “They knew about my childhood and they didn’t diagnose me. My mental health challenges were obviously causing a lot of issues in my life into my teenage years.”  

Denisha is no different than millions of other victims of child sexual abuse. While this is her first published book, she plans to write more in the future. She is also working on a documentary, “No Longer Silent: Hear Our Voices,” which she hopes to license this fall.

The documentary is designed to give survivors of child molestation and sexual abuse an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to have public policymakers and potential allies gain a greater awareness of the devastating effects of such negative social interaction on the lives of individuals, the community and social fabric as a whole.

She hopes that by telling her story it will help other victims tell their story too and start the healing process.

You can purchase Denisha’s books at the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/denisha.seals.77

https://blossomingtogether.weebly.com/books.html

There is healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And having a conversation about it is the first step.

If you were asked what the most critical problems facing our society today are, how would you answer? Poverty? Crime? Drug abuse? Sex Trafficking? What if I told you that most of these problems could be reduced or even eliminated? Most of these problems all stem from the same root cause: Child abuse and neglect.

Studies have shown that victims of child sexual abuse are at a higher risk for substance abuse problems, associated psychological disorders and/or mental problems. They are also at a higher risk for committing violent crimes. And yet when we hear of one of these abused children being arrested and convicted of crimes we seem to have little or no compassion for them.

According to a report released by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of the women and one tenth of the men in our nation’s jails and prisons say they were physically or sexually abused as a child before their imprisonment. For prisoners who had spent part of their childhoods in foster care, the rate of abuse was even higher. 44% of the male prisoners and 87% of the female prisoners who had spent the majority of their childhood in foster care or institutions reported abuse. These were foster homes that were supposed to be a safe place for them to live!

These experiences are deeply traumatizing for a child and have long-lasting and profound impacts on them. Child abuse, which includes sexual, physical, emotional and child neglect, is a major social problem in our country. In ‘Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?’ (NBER Working Paper No. 12171), authors Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin found that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime.

This does not mean that every victim of child abuse will grow up to commit crimes or become a drug addict. It simply means that they are at a higher risk. That is why it is so important for school counselors and teachers to become familiar with the many ways in which childhood abuse and neglect issues can manifest themselves in a child. At the same time, they must realize that disclosure of child abuse does not always happen as as quickly as they would hope. Many times it may take a victim several months to reveal the abuse—sometimes years. I have known many adults who have never revealed their childhood abuse until they were over 60 years old!

The question many ask is, “Why don’t children tell someone about their abuse?” There are many reasons why a child victim of sexual abuse is not likely to tell anyone about their abuse. Often, the abusive adult will convince the child that they won’t be believed. Children frequently remain silent to protect a non-abusive parent from becoming upset. In order to keep the abuse secret, the abuser will often play on the child’s fear, embarrassment or guilt about what happened, convincing them that no one will believe them or that telling anyone will break up the family and it will be the child’s fault. 

Another reason kids don’t tell is because they may know friends who have also been abused at home and went to court. Not only did their friend not receive justice, they also ended up in foster care for a while. So they don’t tell anyone. They just try to forget about it and keep all the hurt inside—And so does their family.

Many times an abuser could be someone you’re close to or in a relationship with. Children of single mothers are especially vulnerable. The mom is so busy working to pay bills and put food on the table, (Sometimes working two or three jobs) that she may not imagine someone whom she invited into her home would have intentions of harming her children. But it has been proven that children living with only one biological parent are 33 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both their biological parents.

Watch for the signs

So how can we know who to trust? We need to read the signs. Someone may be a danger to your children if they:

  • Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it. 
  • Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions. 
  • Are overly interested in the sexual development of your child or teenager. 
  • Regularly offer to baby-sit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone. 
  • Buy your children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason. 

Lastly, check to see if the person you’re in a relationship with is listed on the National Sex Offender Registry—Not just the local registry. Because a registered sex offender will not volunteer his or her information. And if found out, will most often tell you how they were unjustly convicted. Also be aware that many sex offenders will move away from the state they lived when they were convicted without notifying the state where they move to. Because they know that authorities will not look for them unless they commit another crime.  

We all feel shock and outrage whenever we hear of child sexual exploitation by a teacher, coach or religious instructor, but stories of a child being sexually abused by a parent, step-parent, or someone living in the same home as the child rarely receives even a blip on the local news.

Why is it so easy for us to ignore these lost children? 

Maybe because it’s easier for us to ignore the root problem than to work on a solution. To begin with, we need to work to change the court system when it comes to dealing with those convicted of child sexual abuse. When someone is convicted in court, most judges allow the perpetrators to plead guilty to a lesser charge and sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender—which does nothing to protect vulnerable children.

Many still believe that the Sex Offender Registry prevents pedophiles from living near them in their in their community. This is a misconception. Nebraska is one of 22 states that don’t place any restrictions on child sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. (Nebraska statutes 29-4004 and 29-4006) Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!

Prosecutors will tell the victim that it will be emotionally easier for them if they allow a plea deal. But what they don’t tell them is that when a case of child sexual abuse is brought before the court, the perpetrator is charged with crimes against the State, not against the victim. Then, the only option for the victim to get justice for what’s been done to them is to take it to civil court. How many 6 to 9 year old victims do you think have the knowledge and financial means to take their abuser to civil court? 

Another thing we can do is petition out legislators to change the Sex Offender Registry laws in our state to better protect our children. I have written to many state senators asking them to change the SOR law. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. It’s easy for politicians to ignore one or two people, but it’s much harder for them to ignore hundreds of people demanding the same thing.

Lastly, we can encourage survivors of child sexual abuse to speak out. Arrange for schools to allow them to tell their story and contact local news outlets and ask them to cover the event. It is a proven fact that other victims will open up when they know someone else has experienced the same thing. Child sexual abuse needs to be talked about. Remaining silent will only keep this epidemic hidden. 

“Only by dropping our well worn masks

revealing the degrading darkness of hell

can we hope to finally bask

in the life giving light outside our cell.”

By Juno Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author and survivor of childhood sexual abuse

Sex trafficking, drug abuse, mental health issues and criminal activity are only symptoms of the problem. We need to take care of the root of the problem. Otherwise, all the laws we pass and programs we develop will be like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. 

“…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

Other resources:

https://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/what-keeps-us-from-talking-about-sexual-abuse

https://www.smallvoices.org

https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics/

https://laurenskids.org/education/curriculum/