Posts Tagged ‘youth violence’

Something that is difficult to explain to those who have not lived through abuse as a child is the monumental effort it requires to try to trust anyone or anything in life. They don’t even know what a healthy relationship means. Because they were never given the tools to build trust or to engage in a productive connection outside of the hell they experienced as a young child. I experienced this myself and that disfunction became my normal. As I grew older so-called friends and loved ones began to avoid me and sometimes spread rumors about me. My mistrust grew even more.

I have often heard other survivors express that they feel as if they have a target on their backs. That predators, sexual or otherwise, can sense them from miles away and are able to find and easily exploit their weakness and hurt them over and over again. I would love nothing more than to say this isn’t true, but in my experience it is incredibly accurate. It’s the reason that sex traffickers are so successful at luring young people into the sex trade. 

You see, if you are taught from an early age that your own needs don’t matter and that your sole purpose is to gratify the physical needs of someone else, your sense of security when it comes to anything outside of humiliation makes it challenging to have a healthy relationship. If you were conditioned to feel guilty beyond measure and manipulated to not think about what your individual needs might be outside of your abusers, chances are you are going to attract further abuse. 

Too many times victims of child abuse have experienced re-victimization by those they falsely believed were different only to be exploited again. Not just in physical relationships, but in any way possible. From so-called friendships, to doctors, to therapists and even family members. How do you trust when not given the opportunity to do so without being betrayed and how do you heal when the same patterns of dysfunction repeat itself over and over?

I was fortunate to find hope and healing through Jesus and by studying God’s promises in the Bible. I can tell you for a fact that it is possible for a victim of abuse and disfunction to heal. But it will take time, therapy and support. 

Without it some will walk with their shoulders down staring at the ground because it is easier than making eye contact with anyone that they believe will try to destroy what little of themselves that might be left? While others allow their anger to boil over inside them and take their abuse out on others—We’ve seen these results in many of the school shootings. 

In just the last few years we have read about some young adolescent who has been tried as an adult after killing family members and/or other students. As tragic as these crimes are, it is even more tragic for society to condemn these dysfunctional adolescents to a lifetime in prisons with hardened criminals, taking no thought of what caused them commit such heinous acts. 

According to a report released by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics on April of 1999, Almost half of the women and one tenth of the men in the nation’s jails and prisons say they were physically or sexually abused before their imprisonment. For prisoners who had spent their childhood in foster care, the rate of abuse was even higher. 44% of the male prisoners and 87% of the female prisoners who had spent their childhood in foster care reported being abused. The study draws a strong link between prior abuse and violent crime. In 2016, the Vera Institute of Justice conducted surveys of jail populations and found that 86 percent of inmates reported being sexually violated before being incarcerated. 

This year the nation watched, transfixed, as more than a hundred women stood before a Michigan courtroom to describe how Larry Nassar altered their lives with his abuse. They were heard and heeded. The judge listened, the media listened, the world listened, and those girls and women were told that their suffering mattered. 

But many more children who are sexually abused in their own homes rarely get their day in court. And even when they do, judges do very little to give justice to the victims. Most judges only sentence their perpetrators to probation and require them to register as a sex offender. Nebraska is one of 22 states that have no restrictions on those convicted of child sexual abuse. And so their abuse, it seems, counts little for the victims—until they act out and commit crimes themselves. In other words, the United States has made a practice of locking up victims. 

When are we going to stop locking up these victims and asking “what’s wrong with them?” and instead begin to ask, “what happened to them?” And, “How can we help?”

“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 drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

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While walking home from Irving Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska last year, 14-year-old Frida Aguilera was ambushed and attacked by a classmate while other kids circled around and videotaped the incident.

“My face was full of blood and at that point I guess they just thought that was enough,” said Aguilera.

Frida’s attacker got a week suspension and was prosecuted in juvenile court. But the passive bystanders taping the entire incident were not punished.

Unfortunately, Frida’s story isn’t the only one. In December, 9th grader Jared Williamson was leaving school when he was involved in a brutal and unprovoked attack that left him with a concussion and cervical sprain. Students watched and filmed the incident, egging the attacker on. Within minutes the fight was posted to Facebook. After Jared’s attack, he was diagnosed with PTSD and now has to be home schooled because of it.

After Frida’s attack, Frida’s mother contracted Thomas Inkelaar of Inkelaar Law Firm. Inkelaar says Nebraska has no cyberbullying or bullying laws on the books. Nebraska only has an anti-bullying law stating that schools must put policies and procedures in place. “To actually say hey it’s illegal for someone to bully someone, there is actually not a public policy on the record,” he said.

Inkelaar Law is petitioning for stronger state legislation against bullying what is being called ‘Frida’s Law’. If passed, this law would include criminalizing bullying behavior as acts of violence and hold kids videotaping the incidents accountable. “The goal is to stop this, put it in place where we can have safety in our schools,” said Inkelaar. “At minimum, the goal for Frida’s Law is that the aggressor’s sentence includes counseling and community service.”

But what is happening in our schools now goes beyond bullying. It is assault, plain and simple!

Students who engage in violent assaults are more often suspended for a short time when they should be expelled from a school or district, as well as face criminal penalties, including jail time. School districts should also face civil law penalties, in the form of hefty monetary fines, if it is proven that they failed to prevent or punish certain types of behavior by students within their district.

When a teacher is threatened with violence or suffers the same type of attack from a student, the student responsible for the attack is expelled and quickly arrested and charged with assault. Should not students be allowed the same protection under the law?

Research has shown that violent assaults on students can end up causing lasting damage to its victims. I too was bullied as a kid, and I found the experience to be pretty ugly. I’m in my 60s now; and although it’s been years since I experienced getting beat up by three bullies after school for two weeks, that experience has never left me.

I don’t think about it much these days, but I know that that experience has affected me as an adult—and not for the better. Because no one was willing to protect me I felt I had no choice but to quit school in my junior year. As an adult I suffered from depression, low self-esteem and experienced many failed relationships. Even after I surrendered my life to Jesus, it was still years before I was able to see my own worth as a person.

I know that I am not alone in this. Our world is filled with people who continue to suffer from emotional problems because they were victims of physical attacks in school.

How did we come to this point? What causes our children to become such uncontrollable beasts who brutally assault each other without conscience?

The apostle Paul warns us that whatever a person sows, they will also reap the same. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Look at what we have sown: We’ve exchanged the security of family values with immoral ideas and attitudes. Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against. We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security….Welcome to the harvest!

Addressing these problems with positive parenting and by teaching problem solving skills and anger management may help to reduce violence among some teens, but until we repent as a nation and turn back to God and teach our children to do the same, I’m afraid that nothing will change.

Remember God’s warning through the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him… Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us settle the matter, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:4; 16-20)