I had the chance to speak on abuse in Tulsa, OK a couple weeks ago. Everywhere I speak, 1/4 to 1/2 of my audiences have been sexually abused as children. I recently received a message from a preacher friend who said, “40% of the women in my congregation have been sexually abused as children.” The numbers are probably higher, knowing that many survivors of abuse never disclose their abuse to anyone. These are more than just numbers, though. I listen to the stories and hear see the pain in their eyes when they speak. There are ripple effects that effect just about every aspect of life–from intimacy problems, to depression and sexual promiscuity, to lack of trust and PTSD. You name it, and most survivors have experienced it. This is national sexual assault awareness month, yet this taboo subject will find little attention in the media.
I always like hearing stories of survivors who are empowered to help raise awareness and help other survivors of abuse. A friend sent me a link to a video produced by Sasha Neulinger. You may know him as the young actor who played Shallow Hal as a kid. He also played the obese kid in the movie When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. At any rate, Sasha has gone through 200 hours of home videos shot by his dad and is retelling his childhood story through the home videos. You see, underneath the happy moments captured on home video was a dark family secret–Sasha was being sexually molested by his two uncles. Both uncles sexually molested Sasha’s dad as a boy, too. Sasha and his dad are using this film as a way of healing for them and for other survivors.
Give this three minute video a view and let Sasha know you support this endeavor. He is trying to raise enough support to put the video to production. Let’s help empower survivors of abuse by listening to their voices.
Yesterday I watched the full 50 minute Dottie Sandusky interview. Dottie maintains her husband Jerry’s full innocence. Many people were outraged by what she had to say. Admittedly, I wasn’t too pleased myself and I think she did a lot to revictimize Jerry’s victims. But instead of having a knee jerk reaction, I want to offer a perspective from someone whose father is a pedophile and who was, ironically, sentenced the same week of Jerry Sandusky’s trial in 2012. Stranger yet, dad was transferred from Camp Hill to Bellefonte the same exact day that Jerry Sandusky was transferred from Bellefonte to Camp Hill.
First of all, I get asked the question a lot. . . “Did anyone in the family know that your dad was sexually abusing little children?” I can assure you that none of us had any idea whatsoever. We all had a very close relationship with dad, yet we had no idea that he was sexually assaulting children. Had any of us known, he would have been reported immediately. I can also assure you firsthand that it is extremely easy for sex offenders to abuse children for years right under the nose of others and get away with it. Dr. Gene Abel estimates that child molesters only have a 3% chance of getting caught for any one instance of abuse. Let’s flip that number. This means that 97% of the time, a perpetrator successfully violates a child without anyone ever knowing about it. I asked Dr. Anna Salter, a top sex crimes expert, about this. She has interviewed and counseled sex offenders for over 20 years. She said, “In my experience, 3% is probably high. They just don’t get caught.”
Second, I want to sate that I firmly believe (1) that Jerry Sandusky is guilty of sex crimes against children and (2) I believe that Dottie is fully convinced in her own mind that Jerry is innocent. In other words, she’s not delusional–she just doesn’t know how pedophiles think and therefore is easily manipulated by her husband. I want to offer some commentary on a few key points of the Dottie Sandusky interview that I believe will be helpful for most people who read this. Dottie’s perspective is not unique. I don’t know an exact number off hand, but there are studies that show a significant number of victims are never believed. Subsequently, the idea of someone actually being a pedophile is quickly dismissed, enabling them to continue to abuse children unhindered. Here are just a few key points in the interview that jumped out at me:
“He would have admitted to this if he had done it.”
Both Dottie and John Ziegler were adamant about this in the interview. In fact, Ziegler said, “If he did this, why no confession? The closest thing I got to a confession from Jerry was, ‘I may have crossed some boundaries.’” This premise is to assume two things–(1)that pedophiles are truthful and (2) that they would admit that what they did was wrong. The foundations of abuse are secrecy, deception (lies), and misdirection (grooming). Assuming that Jerry would all of a sudden feel remorse and be honest about abusing kids is a dangerous assumption. In fact, Dr. Salter recalled this conversation when she was counseling a convicted pedophile: “You don’t get this, Anna, do you?. . .You think that when I’m asked, ‘Did I do it?’ that’s when I lie. But I’ve been lying every day for the past twenty-five years.” (Salter 42) We also know that Jerry admitted to showering with boys, wrestling with them nude, and having soap battles (throwing balls of liquid soap at the kids then rubbing the soap all over their bodies). It may well be that Jerry is a child molester in denial. Drs. Gene Abel and Judith Becker did an extensive five year study on a sub-group of child molesters–people who had sexual fantasies of children but never offended. In a city of 7 million, they finally found only 8 who fit this category. This is what Abel says, “However, when I talked with these men, I found that all of them were actual child molesters. . . These men made up their own private definition of child molestation. Some would say they had never molested a child because they only sexually fondled a child. As fantastic as it may seem, a few even claimed that, although they had vaginal or anal sex with a child, they had never molested the child because they had not used force” (Abel & Harlow, 97). Assuming that Jerry would have confessed or admitted to the crimes if he had actually done it just does not work.
“Jerry viewed him as a son and that’s why he was showering with him. . . he’s not someone Jerry viewed as a stranger.”
Dottie insisted several times that yes, Jerry showered repeatedly with minors but “that’s the generation he grew up in.” I’ve encountered hundreds of men from “Jerry’s generation” in my life. Anyone want to have a stab at how many of them insisted on showering with me? You guessed it! NONE! It’s not normal. Period. I’ve read a few hundred pages of court transcripts from the trial. Here’s part of an interview with “Victim #4,” who was 13-14 at the time of the abuse. Q–”Can you tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury approximately how many times the defendant in either the East Area Locker Room or the Lasch Building shower or the Lasch Building sauna put his penis in your mouth?”
A–”It would have to be 40 times at least”
Q–”Did you want him to do it–”
Q–”–On any of those occasions?”
Dottie’s insistence that Jerry showered with these boys only because he knew them and loved them assumes the “stranger danger” myth–that sexual predators abuse strangers, not people they know. In fact, just the opposite is true. Around 90% or more of victims are known by their perpetrator (Snyder, 2000).
“Our son Matt is a liar. He stole from us. . .sold Jerry’s rings. . .he flat-out lied. Money was a motive”
Professionals in this field will tell you that underprivileged children are often hand selected by perpetrators precisely because they are starved for love and attention and they have a history of not being believed. Put another way, kids from bad homes often lie and get into trouble. When a perpetrator is questioned, a typical response is, “Who are you going to believe? Me or that kid who constantly lies about everything?” It’s a grooming technique that, unfortunately, works really well. Is their son Matt a liar? Did he steal from them? Was he, or is he troubled? I don’t know him, but it’s quite possible. But that doesn’t mean he made up the abuse.
It’s hard to believe that all of these people came forward and fabricated elaborate stories with great detail of the abuse. I’ve read manuscripts. The techniques that Jerry allegedly used are so common to pedophiles that they’re downright predictable. . . blowing on their bare stomachs, giving inappropriate back massages, putting his hand on their thighs and caressing the genitals while driving his car, showering with them, oral sex, etc. The detail that the victims gave under oath could not have been fabricated by someone who is not intimate with the patterns of pedophiles. And what would they have to gain by subjecting themselves to this kind of public shame?
I could write a lot more on Dottie’s interview, but I will stop here. It’s easy to deceive and be deceived. I only write this because my family and I were, for our entire lives, deceived. Fortunately, dad confessed and did not force his victims to stand trial. I hope to raise awareness in people who are approached by children who disclose abuse. The first thing you should do is, despite what your “gut” tells you, believe the child. Report the alleged abuse and allow professional investigators find out who is telling the truth. Never assume that children are lying or just misinterpreted a physical encounter.
And don’t assume that, just because someone waits until they are an adult to disclose abuse, that the abuse didn’t happen. It is more common than not for someone to disclose the abuse for the first time as an adult. Feel free to watch the interview and let me know what your thoughts are.
Every day my news feed is bombarded with stories of pedophiles preying on, and attacking innocent children. When you allow your eyes to be opened, it becomes evident that this is beyond epidemic status. There are an estimated over 40,000,000 survivors of child sex abuse in the US alone. Wrap your mind around that number, if you can. I recently wrote about child molesters hiding in plain site. But there is another dimension I’d like to add to abusers–there are a lot of them. Unfortunately, most child molesters will never get caught. While this is a grim fact, I believe we can turn it around.
We’re reminded of the story when Jesus and his disciples get off the boat in the country of the Gerasenes. There was a demon possessed man who met them “in the tombs.” I have to wonder why evil spirits were lurking in the tombs. My best guess is that graveyards are a place of great pain for living family members. Visiting gravesites is a solemn and reverent occasion. For many people, the grave is a reminder that the person we love and held so dear is no longer with us. Evil exists to disrupt the very places where people go to try and make sense of, and overcome tragedy. Imagine the scene at the Gerasene tombs–anyone who wanted to bury or visit their deceased loved ones couldn’t because this violent man was screaming and shouting obscenities at the gravesite. It was an added insult to the injury of death.
Another thing that’s striking about this story is the power and persistence of evil–”And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him” (Mark 5:3-4 ESV). People who are familiar with abuse know the lengths that perpetrators go to in order to continue abusing. Hiding, secrecy, shame, and manipulation all allow abuse to continue right under our very noses–in our churches, schools, daycares, sports events, and homes. Confronting a child molester and telling them to stop does not work. It has never worked. Evil is persistent. It doesn’t care about you, children, or God.
Night and day this man was back and forth between the tombs and mountain tops, blatantly causing fear and disruption. I have to wonder if the residents of the town were so used to his presence that they learned to ignore his actions. The thing that grips me most is his eerie response when Jesus asks his name: “My name is Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). A Roman legion was a military term and could be up to 6,000 men. I’m not trying to create fear here, but this is the only category that fits for how many child sex abusers are living among us. They are everywhere, in plain view of us. And my experience tells me that we have, for various reasons, chosen to run and hide from them or have ignored that there are legions of them among us.
In his 2001 book Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography On the Internet, Philip Jenkins entered chat rooms of pedophile rings to observe their secret community. He placed filters so that no images could be viewed, since the viewing of child pornography is highly illegal. What he found was astounding and shocking to him. There literally was such a large community of pedophiles sharing stories and pictures of the hundreds of victims they each were abusing, that Jenkins’ conclusion is that child pornography is not police-able. Keep in mind, this was 2001 when the internet wasn’t even close to being as accessible as it is today. As one pedophile in a chat room put it: “When you think about it, just how many lola lovers
do we have here, maybe? 10,000 15,000 visit this
board, what about the other boards, and what of the
others that can not find this and the other boards? I
have seen some of the log files from some of the
net’s search engines, and the top search is childporn
and all the Lola lovers that don’t have a computer,
there must be millions out there some where ”
I think of Elijah Fernandez who, just last month, raped his girlfriend’s 4 month old baby then punched her in the head twice, rendering the child brain dead. The baby died shortly after at the hospital in Albuquerque. Here is a statement from the police department: “And I literally cannot explain to you what happened because it’s so graphic, you would not be able to air the charges,” said Simon Drobik of the Albuquerque Police Department. “Calls like this always effect officers and the unsung heroes of this department are the Crimes Against Children Unit. They see this all the time, day in, day out.”
They see this all the time, day in, day out. Talk to any police department. Give your local department a call. Ask them if this statement is accurate. I assure you that you’ll find this same response whether you live in a village or metropolis, in a satanic gathering or orthodox church. Do a search on “4 month old baby raped.” This story is not unique. It. Happens. All. The. Time. It’s time that we’re honest with ourselves and admit that this beyond the status of being a problem. We’ve got to stand up and face evil. Let’s call evil what it is. I remember when President Bush was mocked for his famous term “evil doers.” Are we going to mock people who call evil what it is? Is it funny? As I type this, I’m not laughing.
The interesting thing about the story of this demon possessed man is that Jesus didn’t allow evil to go on. He confronted the legion and cast them out. They were no longer welcome to terrorize the village, enter the tombs, or scream on the mountain top. Jesus didn’t say, “Karma will eventually get them.” No! He stood up against evil and essentially said, “You’re not welcome here any longer.” This is called justice. Can you imagine if our churches and communities unified and said, “This evil is no longer welcome in our town”? I believe we can, and we should be doing it. Let’s all join efforts to free the innocent of the effects of this evil.
How aware are we of our surroundings at any given time? I confess that I’m a people observer. I always have been. When I go into public places, I’m always looking around to the point of distraction. What am I looking for? Mostly danger–anyone pacing nervously, anyone with their hands in wrong places, children who look uneasy around their guardians, unscrupulous characters–those sorts of things. I go into full ADHD mode when I’m out. You know those leashes that they make for kids? Well, I should have to wear one when I go out with my wife so she doesn’t lose me.
Why am I so attentive? You could argue that it’s paranoia, but I assure you that I’m not a paranoid person. But I do like to be aware of my surroundings. Maybe we should all be more aware of our surroundings. I can remember working at a Pennzoil oil shop when I was attending seminary. One day our boss pulled us all together and said, “Did any of you see a suspicious guy at the carwash yesterday?” None of us had. He went on to explain that the police stopped at the shop and wanted the video tapes because a college girl was vacuuming her car when she noticed a man snapping pictures of her while masturbating. To my knowledge, they never found the guy.
I recall a time last year when my wife and then 2 year old daughter were with our in-laws at a shopping mall in Grand Rapids. As our daughter was riding the carousel with grandma and grandpa, I noticed a man sitting next to the carousel who looked out of place. The more I watched him, the more I noticed he was infatuated with some young girls riding the carousel. I told my brother-in-law to watch this man’s face when these 2 girls came around. It was disturbing. I reported the man to the carousel operator and she said, “Come to think of it, this man was sitting in the same spot for several hours last night.” After I reported him, she called security on him.
Were these girls’ parents aware that their daughters had a pedo-fantasizer mentally undressing their daughters? From my perspective, they didn’t have a clue. This type of thing happens millions of times a day at any given time. Remember Jaycee Lee Dugard? She was abducted by sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife in 1991 and was held captive in his back yard until discovered in 2009. He did what was a common tactic of many pedophiles–the old “I’m filming something interesting here” trick while actually shooting footage of children. Watch this clip beginning at the 2:30 mark:
This is not an uncommon tactic. Some are more obvious than others. This story is about a pedophile giving a nice Valentine’s treat to a Gresham, OR man’s 5 & 8 year old daughters while walking to the school bus stop. The father recalls: “I saw a guy in a silver car with four doors and he didn’t belong around here. He was staring at my daughters funny.” So he walked around the car to see what the man was doing. You guessed it, he was caught in the act of masturbating. The dad punched the man then the man drove off.
How does this stuff happen so often? I can assure you that I barely scratch the surface of this epidemic through this website. As the son of a pedophile, I can assure you that they truly are hiding in plain sight, a term I borrow from this 1988 article about pedophile preacher Tony Leyva. He sexually abused 100 young boys, but investigators estimate he actually abused around 800 victims. “Brother Tony” was a Pentecostal preacher who spent his time on the road as a very famous evangelist. He passed the boys around a pedophile prostitution ring of other preachers, an organist, and government officials. How does one person sexually assault 800 victims before getting caught? Unfortunately, these numbers are not unique. Statistics are staggering. Pedophiles truly are hiding in plain sight.
We’ve got to be more attentive to our surroundings. We’ve got to be louder. We’ve got to stand up for justice and prevention. If you want to find out what you can be doing within your own communities, you can register for my free 3 hour webinar here. I’ll have guest Les Ferguson, Jr. joining the discussion in the last hour. It’s from 9AM-12 Noon eastern this Saturday. The webinar is open, so you can join it at any time within that 3 hour period. This option is for those who cannot attend the entire webinar but who would still want to hear part of it.
On February 22nd, I’ll be conducting a 3 hour workshop in my community on child abuse. But there’s an added bonus–at exactly the same time, I’ll be broadcasting my workshop as a free webinar! My topics will include “12 Steps for Keeping Children Safe From Predators” and “The Church’s Responsibility to the Abused.” My friend Les Ferguson, Jr. will join me during the last hour. The webinar is from 9AM-12PM Eastern Time.
It will be an “unlocked” webinar, which means you can enter the webinar at any time during that time frame. This will allow people to enter the webinar who may not be able to come or stay for the whole thing. Anyone who has an interest in protecting your children from sexual abuse is encouraged to join. Church leaders would also greatly benefit. Oftentimes the church’s response (or non-response) to child abuse is just as damaging as the abuse is. Victims are often revictimized by the very people who should be protecting them. Find out what a proper (biblical) response should be to the abused.
You can register here for the free webinar. Feel free to pass this on to anyone you feel may benefit from it. Registration capacity is limited and it is a first come, first served event. Hope to see some of you there!
Public school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe. There has been a lot of focus on school shootings lately and, while they are tragic crimes, there is a much bigger epidemic than gun crime in our schools. Take a look at the news. Every day at least a few schools are in the news for sexual assault against young children. . . literally. Does anyone else get as mad as I do that this is happening on a daily basis? Does anyone else feel that it’s long past time that we become vocal, march into our schools, and demand they tell us what steps they are doing to protect our children? If you’re not at that point, you should be. It’s well known that the vast majority of sex crimes against children never get reported. There are an estimated over 40 million survivors of child sex abuse in the US alone. That’s more than the entire state of California, our most populated sate. Or, we could pack NYC at its 8.337 million capacity almost 5 times. Since that’s the case, how much sexual abuse is actually going on in the schools? Brian Palmer may be spot on when he says, “Probably millions.”
Let me add another depressing fact. The majority of teachers will never report suspected abuse, and they are even less likely to report it if a colleague is suspected of abusing a child. To further complicate the issue, several states have unclear laws describing who mandated reporters are and what the process should be for reporting suspected abuse. Here is a clip of Rep. George Miller, CA discussing his surprise at this:
No offense to Mr. Miller, but these are the kind of uninformed people running our country. It is their job to stay informed and to do something to make reporting easier. And let me make something clear to my readers: you don’t have to be a mandated reporter to report a crime! Anyone can (and should) report suspected crimes against children. Which leads me to my next story.
A New York prosecutor who recently put a gym teacher in prison for sexually assaulting an 8 year old boy “was stunned by the lack of cooperation he got from the Matthew LoMaglio’s colleagues, 22 of whom wrote letters to the judge supporting him.”1 It gets worse. The assistant principal, Susan Hasenaur-Curtis, had the boy and his mother in her office as the mother explained the fear her son was living in. Susan Hasenaur-Curtis did not report it to Children Protective Services as is required, because she felt the allegations were not credible. This happened in 2006. It wasn’t until 2012 that this boy had the courage to write a letter to his older brother describing the sexual assault. Though he wrote the letter, he kept it hidden in his bedroom where his younger brother found it and gave it to their parents. LoMaglio, like many pedophiles do, maintained his innocence throughout the trial until he finally confessed to a counselor upon sentencing. By forcing it to go to trial, this boy (now 15) had to testify in court while LoMaglio had his posse of 22 supporters on his side. At one point in the investigation, the prosecutor found out there was talk among teachers at Rochester School 19 that went like this: “Are you for the teacher or the student?”
According to statistics, it is very unlikely that this boy was LoMaglio’s only victim. Not by a long shot. I tell you this story because it happens all the time. Ask any prosecutor of sex crimes against children. They will all tell you similar stories of support for the perpetrator, not the victim. My question is, “Would you pull your kid from school if this happened?” My answer is an unequivocal YES! Not only would I pull my kid from a slimy school like Rochester 19, I’d pay for a lengthy article in my local newspaper to let the world know that they are protecting the name of the abusers, not the victims. I would publish the 22 teachers’ names in the newspaper who wrote letters of support for the man who robbed the innocence of an 8 year old. I would demand that they resign. I would let everyone know that assistant principal Susan Hasenaur-Curtis has 0 interest in protecting your kids. She had an opportunity to report a crime and chose not to do it, even though the law requires it. I would ask for her resignation, demand an apology, and ask that she have nothing to do with any organization where children need to be protected.
This story is personal to me. I was asked by my dad to write a letter of support in order for him to get a reduced sentence. I could not. I would not. To do so would have been the hugest slap in the face to every child whose innocence was taken away by that man. I love my dad and still communicate with him, but support he will not find.
I’m a firm believer that silence is another way to support the abusers. By the public remaining silent and not demanding answers from these schools, we are allowing these crud ball teachers, principals, and super intendants to keep doing this without consequence. If you have children in school, go there this week and ask to have a printed copy of their child protection plan. If they give you a hard time or tell you that you can’t see it, go to your local news and let the public know about it. My wife was a teacher in the public schools and I know that teachers are not well informed about policies and reporting procedures. Pennsylvania is getting better because of the recent passing of Act 126. But we are light years ahead of other states in this area, and that’s not saying much. Find out what policies and plans are in place at you kids’ schools. Demand answers and don’t tolerate schools who protect the guilty.
“I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth” (Job 29:17 ESV)
There are a lot of pedophiles out there taking advantage of very young children–exploiting, humiliating, sexualizing, and dehumanizing them. With the explosion of the internet, access to child porn and the ability to remain anonymous has pedophiles lined up like a school of piranha waiting to sink their teeth into the next unsuspecting youngster. Experts say the problem is getting worse, not better. I would agree. Even since I began this site a few months ago, the type of traffic coming to my site has attracted more and more sickos. My dashboard tells me that today, January 28th, the top searches that led people to my website are “child porn,” “children porn,” “child porn vk,” and “young chaild sexy pron” (spelling mistakes are intentional by frequent child pornographers who try to remain undetected).
I hear a lot of personal stories of children who are being exploited by adults who justify their evil twisted behavior through a number of avenues. Here’s the deal–nothing can justify this kind of behavior. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Not addictions, not “lust,” not desire, not lack of sex from your spouse, and certainly not the claim that young children come on to the perpetrator. These sex crimes don’t “just happen.” They are fantasized about. They are planned. Every detail is meticulously planned, down to what amount of pressure the perpetrator’s hand will have as it grazes the young child’s genitalia for the first time.
Why do I share these things with you? Because we don’t want to believe that it’s true, or that it happens that often, or that it could happen to our own kids. We’d like to think that this is such a rarity, and that the media just blows it out of proportion. I’m here to tell you, experience and knowledge has opened me up to a whole new world–a huge world. And I’m learning that denial does nothing to stop pedophiles. Fear does not stop them. Rules do not stop them. Belief in God does not stop them. So what will? You will. People like you and me who are loud. I mean unapologetically loud, and who will be a voice for the victims of these heinous crimes. People who have no fear of reporting abuse can at least deter child molesters and let them know that we’ve had enough. We are no longer afraid to speak out and to stand up for what is right. There is a war being waged and the wrong side has been retreating for years. It’s time to take innocent territory back.
One more thing. . . for those of you who cruise the internet looking for “young chaild sexy pron,” heroes like this may just be setting a trap for you when you think you are masturbating on camera for a 10 year old child:
A 28 year old woman, a survivor of child sex abuse, posted a video to Youtube of her calling her abuser. She did it because she feared that the statutes of limitation would prevent the abuser from paying for the crimes. First of all, praise God that she found the courage to do this, and to show her face publicly. This video will hopefully embolden other survivors to tell their stories of abuse and to report it. Only about 25% of child sex abuse survivors will ever tell anyone that they have been sexually abused. Other studies show that this number is probably generous. The majority of abuse survivors take that secret to their grave.
I’ll post the video at the bottom of this blog. The ridiculous comments people leave behind are not surprising to me: “Get over it. . .it happened 16 years ago,” “move on. . .” etc. Isn’t that the perception many people have? And isn’t this attitude precisely why children are afraid to tell anyone? Imagine–you’re 3 years old and finally get the courage to tell someone that your uncle has been caressing your body parts with his tongue. The reply is, “Just get over it.” “Move on.” Fear is the number one reason children don’t tell. Fear that nobody will believe them. Fear that they will be punished for telling. Fear that telling will cause a divorce. Fear that the public will find out that they have been molested. Fear that they will have to go to trial and face their abuser. You get the picture.
I’ve heard people ask survivors why they waited so long to tell someone. It’s usually framed in an accusatory question like, “If the abuse was really as bad as you say, why would you wait until you were all grown up to say something about it?” Says the person who was never sexually assaulted as a child. Interestingly, pedophiles commonly use the same argument but with a different agenda. It goes something like this: “If she really didn’t like it, she would have told me to stop.” Says the person who threatened the child that if he tells, something bad will happen to him or his family.
At any rate, I commend this woman who got the courage to call her abuser and I get why it took so long. We all should get it. It is more common than not for those who do report to do it years after the abuse occurred. I know of victims who were ridiculed by families or churches for reporting abuse because “you’re smearing “so-and-so’s” good name. Really? We can and need to do better than this for survivors of abuse.
And one piece of advice–don’t feel sympathy for abusers because they “were born that way” or “just couldn’t help themselves.” This video grabbed my attention and the abuser’s response is typical of pedophiles who are initially questioned for their crimes.
Caller: “I was only 12 years old when I met you. Do you realize that you brainwashed me and manipulated me and that what you did was wrong?”
Abuser: “Yes. And I regret it.”
Caller: “Are you doing this to other students too?”
Interviews with convicted child molesters reveal that they know that it is terribly wrong but they abuse anyway. Is the regret genuine? Possibly. But regret doesn’t stop someone from abusing, or from continuing to abuse. Is she telling the truth that she is not doing this to other students? It’s doubtful. There are a wide variety of statistics on how many victims a pedophile may have in his or her lifetime–with some being over 1,000 (that’s individual children per 1 abuser; this does not count how many instances of abuse there were, which could be a few thousand). Dr. Gene Abel did a couple studies and found that convicted pedophiles who were questioned averaged 73 victims each. United Youth Security estimated 260 victims each. You will find similar high numbers, and the scope of this particular blog is not to discuss the reasons why this range is all over the place. But there is one thing that is consistent: no matter how many abusers initially claim that they only have one victim, when further investigated it is revealed that there are almost always multiple victims.
Proverbs 24:24-25 (ESV) says, “Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.”
I’m not a sports fan, and this is probably because I don’t have an ounce of athleticism in my DNA. If I can’t play sports, I certainly don’t care to watch them. But I digress. For millions of people, sports are quite enjoyable. 108 million people watched the Super Bowl last year, making it the 3rd most watched television event ever. But there’s a dark side of the Super Bowl that few are talking about–human sex trafficking. Just search for “human trafficking at Super Bowl” and dozens of stories will pop up, just from the last few days.
Every Super Bowl, children are transported to the hosting cities by their pimps and are forced to have sex with sports fans. A former sex trafficking victim explains what it’s like for these young children: “When they come to these kinds of events, the first thing you’re told is how many you’re gonna perform a day,” she said Friday. “You’ve got to go through 25 men a day, or you’re going through 50 of them. When they give you that number, you better make that number.”1 She recalls being injected with heroin, tied to the bed, and being forced to watch another victim be tortured for not meeting the quota of Johns. This video is well worth the watch to see what goes on while millions of people are glued to the television in the comfort of their homes. Here is another look at what’s going on (lots of information is available on this topic):
How does this happen? Quite easily, actually. Pedophiles can easily use distractions, abuse a child, and go back to “normal life” as if nothing has ever happened. How many wives or girlfriends, not able to attend, send their husbands or boyfriends off to the Super Bowl with a blessing? Would they ever suspect that while away, they will be paying pimps to have sex with children? Not a chance, which is why it is so easy for predators to get away with it. This is magic 101–slide of hands. While one hand is occupied, the other is busy performing the magic trick.
The good news is that the NFL, local governments, the FBI, and lots of volunteers are working together at each Super Bowl to ramp up an effort to rescue these children and young adults who are being trafficked. We should pray for the thousands of children and young adults who will be moved to New Jersey in a few weeks against their will to be used as sex objects for the warped.
Guilt. Shame. Burdened. Sad. Lonely. Addicted. Marked. The more I speak with survivors of child sex abuse, the more I understand the weight that so many of you feel. Now, I’m not one of those people who will say, “I know exactly how you feel.” The reality is I don’t know exactly how you feel, and I never will. Neither do I pretend to know exactly how you feel. But I can say emphatically that Christians be damned if we don’t begin to try and understand. It’s time we church leaders search into the depths of our hearts and minds and start to understand exactly why Jesus surrounded himself with people who were labeled as the social outcasts.
It’s sad that so many Christians overlook the people who Jesus closely associated himself with. Let’s start with Jesus’ own family tree. Matthew mentions Tamar who, by the way, dressed as a prostitute and had sex with her father-in-law. There’s also Rahab, whose profession was a prostitute, followed by Ruth, the woman who spent the night under the blankets with Boaz. And then there’s Bathsheba who cheated on her husband with King David. All of these women were foreigners, too. Not exactly the model family tree for the Messiah. These are not the women that someone would say, “Tah dah!. . . Meet my family, everybody.” Yet Matthew includes them in Jesus’ family tree precisely because Jesus came to heal the wounded.
Let’s not forget the woman who was caught cheating on her husband. Jesus vehemently defended her in John 8. We cannot forget the Samaritan woman, either, who Jesus pursued at the well. You know, the one who had 5 former husbands and was living with man number 6 (not her husband). Or what about the woman who fell down, wiping Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. Luke does not mince words concerning her: “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner. . .” (Luke 7:37). What exactly was her sin? We’re not positive, but we know how she was viewed by the townspeople when the owner of the house said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him. . .” (Luke 7:39). What’s Jesus’ response? Jesus rebukes not the sinful woman, but the religious man who looked down on this woman. Then Jesus offers the most healing words to this woman that she could have ever heard: “Your sins are forgiven.” I imagine a woman who felt both ashamed by past abuse and by who she’d become because of it. She felt so crappy about herself that she finds herself in a humiliating position–on all fours wiping the dirty feet of this man with her hair, as tears and snot fall to the ground. My heart breaks for her. I imagine that she, like many of you, had never been empowered to feel loved.
As I talk with survivors of abuse, many of them share how they are not able to speak to anyone about their abuse. They feel ashamed, scared, broken, guilty, and downright ugly inside. This is why it’s called abuse. Abuse sucks. And I believe this is why Jesus is so kind to all of these women I mentioned. He does not excuse their sin. He understands its source. Rather than force them to keep hiding it while feeling ashamed, he frees them by bringing it out from the pits of their soul. It’s only then that they can begin to heal.
I wonder just how many of you are out there waiting to tell someone about the burden you’ve been carrying for so long, waiting for someone to show up who will simply listen. As a minister, I often ask myself what our church can be doing to help survivors of abuse be empowered to talk about their abuse and to begin healing. Should we begin a support group for survivors of abuse? Would people even come, or do they feel too ashamed? I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that doing nothing is just plain wrong. My heart breaks every time I hear people who turn to sex, or drugs, or porn simply because they are trying to find a way to cope with their abuse. My heart breaks even more when they are ridiculed for their sin without church leaders ever caring to find out why they are caught up in them. I truly believe that if the church was as gentle to the abused sinners and as harsh to the abuser sinners as Jesus was, people would actually trust in God and His church again.
I commend my new friend Mary DeMuth who turned her childhood rapes into a healing book specifically for survivors of child sex abuse (really for any kind of abuse, but she writes from the perspective of one who endured brutal rapes as a child). Her newest book Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse will be in print next month. I couldn’t wait, so I ordered the e-book and I’ve got to say, I cannot put it down! Survivors of abuse need to hear from Mary. You need to know that there is hope. You need to hear that there are good men out there, and that you are worthy of them!
My prayer is that you can be empowered to begin speaking about the abuse and that churches will be open to being a vessel of hope and healing! You are not alone and you should never feel like you are!