Posts Tagged ‘crime’

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/

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The Columbine High School massacre, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the mass shooting at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, were all perpetrated by white males, who obviously suffered from mental illness—Stark reminders that crazy people live among us. Many have debated whether we should create more institutions for the mentally ill in order to protect us from these dangerous individuals.

But what should we do about the typical gang violence in major cities that we see broadcasted on the local news? Every night it seems that a similar story is told: “Police have responded to the scene of a shooting; Police believe the shooting was gang-related; No suspects have been arrested.”

People living in neighborhoods with known gang populations where these types of shootings frequently happen represent a legitimate fear of private citizens, parents, children and business owners who live, work, and go to school in these neighborhoods.

Five year old Payton Benson was killed when three callous gunmen peppered her street with a barrage of bullets and one of the bullets shot and killed the little girl as she sat eating her breakfast.

Stephen Arps and Johnnesha Brown were shot just outside Brown’s parents’ home near 45th Street and Grand Avenue in Omaha, Ne.

Even those trying to change the gang environment in their neighborhood are not immune to it. An anti-gang activist’s 16-year-old son, Charles Trotter, who has acknowledged ties to the 37th Street Crips in Omaha, has been charged in the shooting deaths of two men at a party.

Can we just pray it away?
An Omaha group called ‘First Responders’ have been meeting together at places where community members have been violently murdered. They meet to pray for the victims’ families and believe they will help reduce violence in Omaha by mobilizing people from churches and neighborhoods all over Omaha to pray together. Two prayer walks were already held in Omaha soon after the New Year began in response to two shootings that left three people dead.

Unfortunately, prayer alone won’t deter gang violence. It hasn’t worked in Chicago, It hasn’t worked in Detroit, and it won’t work in cities where the minority black population works overtime to fight against violent crime in their neighborhoods.

Don’t misunderstand, I believe in prayer. And I believe that we should rally around the friends and families of victims of gang violence and support them in prayer. I also believe that many of God’s miracles are wrought in the bowels of the prayers of godly men and women. But if prayer alone would stop violence, then we should be holding prayer-walks along the Mexican/ US border and in every country where violence is destroying lives.

We need to understand that gang violence grows out of a distorted mind-set. When David Wilkerson went to New York to minister to the gangs there, he didn’t hold prayer-walks at the scene of murders. Instead, led by God’s spirit, he reached out to the gang members in order to change their mind-set of violence.

Sometimes, one of the biggest hindrances to reducing gang violence is the news media sensationalizing every gun-related crime that happens. These stories get played over and over again with the pictures of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes plastered across the TV screen until they’re burned into peoples’ memory. They give these criminals their 5-minutes of fame while the victims are barely mentioned!

Most people recognize the names of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, but how many would recognize the names Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, or William Sanders? Many in the Omaha area will recognize Nikko Jenkins’ name, but do they know who Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena were?

During the time of Noah, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) There it is—the people of Noah’s day had a mind-set of violence! All the bloodshed, murders, etc. that take place are the fruit of a mind-set of violence. And God blames all violence on a mind-set. (Thoughts and intents of the heart) “In your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58:2)

It starts with the children.
Changing a mind-set has to start with the children. If a child grows up with love, attention, compassion and understanding, then he will not pull out a gun and kill others when he is older.
Being a parent is the most important job in this world. And we need to take seriously the responsibility of teaching them love, respect and everything else that will assist them in growing up to be moral and loving adults.

How can we expect a teen or a young adult to be an asset to society if he is brought up in an environment where there is no love or respect in the home? Many of those that kill are hurting—and they’re angry. They hate their life, and because they cannot stand it, they lash out in violence.

As Christians and as fellow human beings, we should look out for those who are hurting, sad and angry, and let them know that they are not alone. Usually, we ignore the signs because it’s so much easier to walk away.

Robert Wildeboer, a criminal and legal affairs reporter, discovered that the city of Toronto has about one seventh the number of murders than Chicago, even though the two cities are of equal size. He observed that a key difference is that the public in Toronto demands a crime-free society, and that this expectation filters through the neighborhoods, the news media, politicians, lawmakers, and law enforcement. http://www.wbez.org/series/under-gun-murder-chicago-and-toronto
To me, this observation suggests a striking possibility: that by refusing to accept criminal behavior as acceptable, we can actually reduce it.

David Wilkerson saw firsthand the advantages of using the weight of his thoughts on the side of respect, love and forgiveness. Rather than thinking of individuals as irredeemably corrupt, or concluding that violence will always be a part of their life, he believed that God’s constant influence of calm, clarity, integrity, and goodness would have a better and lasting effect. http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/david-wilkerson.html

Separating the crime from the individual is difficult, but without addressing the underlying cause, the crime will continue—and there will be a thousand others to carry it out. The prisons are already filled with them.

Instead, each of us must think properly and prayerfully about the issue of violent crime. Rather than responding with fear, we can insist that violence in our cities and our lives is not an unavoidable fact of life.

I believe that if we join hands in prayer with our neighbors facing violent crime we can succeed in separating crime from our humanity and realize that violence is not a “necessary evil.” There is no criminal legitimacy. Crime is opportunistic, cowardly and non-intelligence. Our responsibility to our neighbors around us is to reject the idea that crime has any legitimacy, and separate it entirely from our humanity.

This prayerful approach will not only enable us to support our neighbors, but will also lead to appropriate law enforcement measures to curb violence and give us safer cities and neighborhoods. It is only then that our communities will begin to be filled with good citizens and neighbors and bring us all closer to our rightful inheritance.