Archives For Sexual Abuse

Don’t Look the Other Way

Lisa Cherry —  February 6, 2012

By Lisa Cherry

Another horror story of child abuse appeared in the news last week.  A California teacher, previously accused, went on to commit unspeakable acts during his 30 years in the classroom.  I have to wonder how many people around him knew something was wrong, and looked the other way?

Believers, please pray for these children and for their families.  Their pain is severe, and they desperately need healing.

We must become more skilled in recognizing the symptoms of the suffering and the behavior of predators, and to learn what to do so that we can act confidently and quickly to stop the pain.

I’ve previously mentioned TAALK Tips, a daily email to educate adults to prevent and recognize child sexual abuse and take proactive steps to protect children.   Please subscribe today, and ask the Lord to make you alert to any situations that need intervention.

By Lisa Cherry

Until a few years ago, I would have dismissed the Penn State scandal as a rare and bizarre problem ripe for the AOL news feed, but remote from my small-town life. Until one day in 2002 when my own family’s world was turned upside down. An $800 cell phone bill revealed a secret abusive relationship between our 15-year-old daughter, Kalyn, and a 46-year-old “responsible” man from our church.

Image courtesy of Dave Dyet

That day we officially joined the throngs of those asking “How?” How could something so ugly happen to our child when we thought we were going to extraordinary measures to protect her? How could a trusted family friend face us with a smile, knowing what he was doing to our daughter in secret? How could our intelligent, bright, high achieving girl fall into such a dirty trap and still not ask our help to get out?

Kalyn’s own words penned while still in her teen years provide us some clues…

“I had fallen in a pit over my head, and it was beyond my ability to climb out. Unable to escape the cycle of excitement, guilt, pleasure, and deception that tormented me, I felt trapped—not just by a person, but by the powers of darkness seeking to destroy my life. I was torn. I had seemingly found the acceptance my teenage heart so desired, but with it came the devastating effects of sexual abuse day after day.

I lived in a fantasyland within my own mind. Whenever my thoughts wandered into reality, I felt trapped in a predicament with no way out…

I learned to pretend as though I enjoyed the sexual exploration and desires communicated to me by this much older man. Terrified of losing his “love,” I went along with all his perverted ideas, even when they made me feel filthy, violated and used. I believed the lie that he needed me to meet these needs in his life lest he be lonely and miserable…

This perverted man had found a way into my young life, shattered my values, and convinced me to believe his sick lies. Yet instead of running from him, I ran to him night after night, giving him my fragile heart and all my trust. I was no longer my own, but I was possessed by this horrific monster whose manipulation had overtaken my life.

This was my secret hidden from the world, the source of my secret pleasure and my inner turmoil. I would do anything to keep it from being exposed, yet deep down I longed desperately for someone to detect it and pull me out of this sinking pit.”

                                                            from Kalyn’s Secret, page 42-43

If only someone had known about Kalyn’s abuser and had blown the whistle...but would they have done it? Would they have been able recognize the abuse for what it was? Would they have had known what to do, and had the courage to do it? Or would they have been intimidated and fearful of offending the perpetrator?

Ignorance is one of my greatest mothering regrets over my daughter Kalyn’s life. I had lectured her well about saying “no” to bad touch and running from the trench-coated in the park. But like 90% of abusers, he was known to her. We trusted him. We didn’t realize he had groomed Kalyn and us for his evil purposes.

As the story continues to unfold from Penn State, I believe we will learn of the recognizable predator characteristics that were missed and the long trail of clues that were ignored. The questions we have should cause us to face head on the silent monster of sexual abuses lurking in the shadows of our hallowed halls.

All around us are others waiting to be rescued from their tormenting pain. With estimates ranging from one in three to four girls and one in five to six boys being sexually abused in America by age 18, obviously thousands are in desperate need of help! Are we, as the church, prepared to hear their cries and respond? Who will be Jesus’ voice of compassion to them?

Protecting our children and healing our walking wounded will require a special grace from our Heavenly Father. The church—not just the government—must prioritize this issue if we are to see a generation made whole. Ignoring the epidemic and pretending it would never happen to us “good Christian folk” is both naïve and dangerous!

Will you begin sharpening your understanding and alertness even today? Start by taking the Sexual Abuse Awareness Test which shatters some of our long-held views.

God, help us to know our kids’ world and constantly stay alert to hidden dangers that they cannot see. Help us to extend Your healing, redeeming hand to those we encounter who are trapped in a secret world of pain.

Lisa Cherry is the author of Kalyn’s Secret: Every Parent’s Battle to Save Their Children, and co-founder of POTTS (Parents of Teens and Tweens). She speaks to parents at Acquire the Fire events, and co-pastors Victory Dream Center in Carbondale, Illinois with her husband Doug. They are the parents of ten children and the grandparents of three. Follow Lisa at POTTSgroup.com and FrontlineMoms.com.

Can we count on the government to protect our children?  I don’t think so.  In Illinois, where I live, 90 addresses listed as state licensed child care providers were recently found to be the same addresses as registered sex offenders!  Continue reading “Registered Sex Offenders Living at Day Care Centers?” »

iStock_000013854225XSmallChild abusers are always looking for their next mark.  But it’s not just the latchkey kid or the child of the single parent who’s at risk.  All children and teens are at risk.  We don’t want to think about it, and most of us don’t believe it, but it’s true. Your child is at risk. My child was at risk, and I didn't know it.

Our world was rocked when we received an $800 cell phone bill that unveiled a secret, sexually abusive relationship between our then 15 year old daughter Kalyn and a 46 year old man from our church.  The damage of the abuse and its aftermath was horrifying.  Overnight our model daughter became a depressed, rebellious, suicide-threatening, eating-disordered teen.

I would give most anything to have averted that pain in her life. I can’t go back and do that, but I can share with you what I have learned.  Take three minutes to read this list and you will have the keys to preventing this from happening to your child.  Do you know other parents who need this information?

The Top 10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Sexual Predators

10.  Recognizing a sexual predator is difficult.  They are secretive, devious, and shrewd.  Many are able to go on abusing a child or a series of children for years without being caught.  Because they come from all economic, social, age, racial, ethnic, and religious groups, they cannot be identified by a particular stereotype or profile.

9.   We expect strangers to pose the most risk. Actually 90% of child and youth victims know their perpetrator.  Abusers are usually not strangers, but rather relatives (30%) or nonfamily authority figures (60%) such as neighbors, family friends, babysitters, clergy members, teachers or coaches.  “Stranger danger” training is important, but will not protect our children from most abusers.

8. Most sexual predators "groom" their victims over a period of time.  Grooming is a very tricky psychological process by which the predator gains the child or adolescent’s trust while systematically moving the boundaries of the relationship toward the sexual.

7.  Adults around the victim are groomed too. The predator uses public displays of trustworthy and kid-friendly behaviors to insure that NO ONE would believe that he/she would ever hurt a child.  That is why, according to law enforcement officials, the predator’s suspicious behaviors are often ignored by the supervisory adults.

6.  Sexual abuse of a child is not limited to physical sexual contact such as fondling or intercourse. Even if it’s visual, verbal, pornographic, emotional, or by phone or internet, any sexual contact between any adult (or older teen) and child or adolescent is abuse.   And therefore, damaging.

5.  Sexual abuse traumatizes adolescents as well as young children. Today’s youth culture is so oversexualized that, in popular thought, developing teens’ sexual relationships (even abusive ones) are considered rites of passage.  The truth is that sexual abuse has long term effects that are devastating.  These include promiscuity, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, cutting, and rebellion.

4.  Kids and adolescents feel powerless to stop abusive behavior.  They are usually under strong threat not to tell, and will often protect an abuser because he/she is a "trusted" adult.

3.  Sexual abuse is never the fault of the child or adolescent.  Often they are blamed with questions from us such as "Why did you let him do that?" or "Why did you not tell me this was happening?"  Victims’ worst fears are realized when subtle accusations of responsibility are levied against them.

2.  Children are not able to handle sexual abuse on their own. We can teach children and adolescents to say "no," but this is not enough.  Children are especially vulnerable; we cannot expect them to fully understand what’s being done to them and to reason as an adult. Adults have the responsibility to prevent and recognize sexually abusive behavior.

1.  Child sexual abuse is very common.  Today 1 in 3 or 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by age 18.   One study reports that 500,000 children and adolescents are sexually abused every year. These staggering numbers indicate that our stereotypical views of the "perpetrator lurking in the park" must be expanded to the real dangers of perpetrators within our sphere of relationships.

The battle rages, and our children's minds, hearts, and souls are hanging in the balance.   Understanding the dynamics of abuse will enable us to protect our children more effectively.  Sexual abuse is but one tool of destruction.  As parents we must be better prepared to lead our children in difficult times.

Update:  I invite you view the trailer of our book, Unmask the Predators: The Battle to Protect Your Child and to buy a copy here.  Join our coalition of concerned parents by subscribing to my blog, Frontlinemoms.com. There is no cost to join, and you will receive updates by email to keep abreast of this critical issue.  Or follow me on Facebook.

Linking up to  The Better Mom,   Modest Mondays, and  Many Little Blessings.

Today the phone rang, and I found myself listening to another mother’s heartbreaking story.  I recognized the particular distress in the caller's voice because I have known the horror of something like what she’s going though.  The similarities of our stories chilled me.  But I caution you: don’t just browse this for the juicy tidbits and then go on with your life.  If you take nothing else with you from this post, realize this: sexual abuse is not rare, but rather much more common than you think.

Two years ago this mother had discovered an inappropriate relationship developing  between her 16 year old daughter Continue reading “Another Day, Another Family’s Nightmare” »