Tips For Protecting Kids

It’s a question that all of us parents (should) want to know–How do I keep my kids safe from predators? I get asked this question on a regular basis, and I’m glad. The fact that parents and church leaders are asking means that they take seriously the charge to protect the kids who are in their care. I wish I could say that abuse in the church is rare. It is not. Not by a longshot. In my opinion, we do not do nearly good enough a job preparing our church leaders on how to handle this issue.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus prepared his disciples by saying, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). What comes out of the Son of God’s mouth next is riveting: flogging in the synagogues. Beatings. Hatred. Murder. Fathers killing children. Children killing parents. Persecution. Fleeing. After 9 years of college and graduate school I can honestly say that there was nothing even remotely similar to this in discussions meant to prepare us for ministry. Sadly, these things are going on in our churches today, here in the USA. It is out of my personal experience of living among a wolf that I share these tips for protecting your children.

#1 Educate Kids–I understand the need to shield our children from certain things. But keeping them completely sheltered is a mistake. And it’s costing our kids big time. The number one thing we can do to help keep our kids safe from predators is to teach them what abuse really is and how to say no. We teach them fire safety and have firemen come to the schools. We do fire drills. We teach them to cross the road safely. We do tornado drills in Pennsylvania, for crying out loud! They learn the safest places to be in lightning storms. So why are we not teaching them how to say “NO!” to a predator? My e-mail is backed up with requests from people to speak with me about their children being sexually abused. I’ve received dozens and dozens just in the past few months, and these are all just within the Churches of Christ. Child molesters will not mess with a child who they think is going to tell on them. So teach your child to tell.

#2 Create Boundaries/Policies–It’s astounding how many churches, schools, and daycares don’t have any written policies. These places are easy targets because there are lots of children, accessibility is unrestricted, accountability is non-existent, they are desperate for volunteers, most people are automatically trusting, and many Christians are naïve. We have created the perfect place for abusers and a nightmare of a place for children. My father wrote me from prison before and said, “Churches and Christian daycares are the easiest places to sexually offend children. It’s so easy to gain the trust of people and they just hand you their kids.” If you want to see a discussion on boundaries, see my articles on boundaries.

#3 Educate Adults–As I mentioned, we ministers are ill-equipped to detect, prevent, report, and deal with the aftermath of abuse. This is not a knock on our schools. I think of where I was prior to finding out that my own father was an abuser–I didn’t want to believe that this went on in the church. But it does. A lot. Paul says to expose the deeds of darkness, not to pretend that they don’t exist or ignore them altogether. For every incident of abuse in the church that I hear, I hear just as many incidents of cover-ups by church leaders. This is not only illegal, it’s immoral. We’ve got to educate our adults on how to detect abuse, how to prevent it, how to report it, and how to bring healing to victims of abuse. Shame on the churches who cover it up and pretend like it didn’t happen.

#4 Accept Reality–When we fail to accept the reality that some of the most trusted, respected, productive people in our churches are perpetrators themselves, we help them to multiply their victims, as I will demonstrate later. I speak from experience. I never in a million years dreamed that my own father, a minister himself, was capable of abusing children. It never crossed my mind. He was one of my best friends. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it. But worse, his crimes are crimes that are incredibly easy to hide. Gavin de Becker once wrote, “The solution to sexual violence in America is not more laws, more guns, more police, or more prisons. The solution to sexual violence is acceptance of reality (quoted in foreword of Anna Salter’s Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, & Other Sex Offenders, pg. xi.)

#5 Keep Records and Do Something–In Carla van Dam’s The Socially Skilled Child Molester, she talks about a “trail of slime” that molesters leave behind. After someone is arrested, we can all recount things that didn’t “seem right.” It’s amazing how many people have since told me how uncomfortable they felt around my dad when he was with children. Yet nobody, including myself, ever talked about it with anyone else. Van Dam recommends that, if you see an adult interacting with children in an inappropriate way, you should start talking to other parents and see if they have similar feelings. Then she recommends documenting specific interactions. I’ve called police on several occasions just to inform them of things that I’ve seen with individuals. Though the acts were not illegal per se, the police have a running tab on certain individuals. I reported one man to the police this summer and said, “This man will have a rape victim very soon if he is not caught.” Sadly, my words turned prophetic about a month ago. He is in jail for sexual assault.

Many people argue with me that abuse is not common in the Churches of Christ. Spend one day facing my computer screen and read the daily e-mails I get from victims just within the Churches of Christ. Your perspective will quickly change. It is an epidemic. Here are just a few cases within the Churches of Christ in the past few years:

December 16, 2014–Former preacher of Elm and Hudson Church of Christ in OK, Tommy Lynn Bailey, 56, was arrested yesterday for having sex with a minor beginning when she was 14 and lasting 7 years. She lived in his home and was under his direct care. Bailey also worked at Open Arms Behavioral Health counseling center in Lawton.

September 11, 2014–A 14 year old church member had her own 9/11 tragedy when her preacher of Palisades Family Church of Christ, 55 year old Glenn VanZandt, was caught by a cop in a vacant city park parking lot raping and sodomizing the young girl. He had been doing this for months to this young victim.

July 2012–At Pennsylvania Christian Camp at nearby Blue Knob State Park, a Churches of Christ camp, a camp counselor forced 9 year old boys to get on all fours and play a “whipping game,” where crying kids were forced to whip each other while the counselor watched.

August 2011–On August 1st, 2011, I reported my father John Hinton, 62, former preacher of Somerset Church of Christ to local authorities. He was initially charged with 150 counts, including producing child pornography with his victims, which were as young as 4 years old. He is currently serving a 30-60 year sentence.

September 2011–86 year old long-time preacher Clarence Caldwell Arquitt, Jr. is arrested and released on $30,000 bond for molesting and sodomizing a girl over an 8 year period. She was 3 when the alleged abuse began and 11 when it stopped. The abuse occurred at his homes in Wood Stock and Sandy Springs. Arquitt helped found North Cobb Church of Christ in GA and is the founder and initial director of Georgia School of Preaching and Biblical Studies. He has preached at North Cobb Church of Christ, Olive Street Church of Christ, Piedmont Church of Christ, and Wood Stock Church of Christ.

October 10, 2011–70 year old trusted church member Paul Buckman murders my good friend Les Ferguson, Jr.’s wife, Karen, and 21 year old disabled son, Cole, after raping and sodomizing Cole for a period of months. Les was the preacher at Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport, MS at the time. Karen and Cole were murdered while Les was at a preacher’s meeting. It was their 24th wedding anniversary that day, and exactly 1 year later to the day, my son Cameron was born.

November 12, 2010–Matthew Jordan, 51, was fired from Center Road Church of Christ in Saginaw, MI in January 2010 for “performance issues.” In November, family members tipped police off that Jordan may have sexually abused a 12 year old boy from his church. Jordan pleaded guilty and investigators recovered pictures and videos of Jordan sexually molesting the boy in the basement of Jordan’s home. Jordan was convicted in TN in 1987 with assault with intent to commit rape of a minor. Yet, he freely traveled around preaching in our churches, free to abuse more children.

2010–Skillman Church of Christ near Dallas, TX hires then 50 year old registered sex offender and person from America’s Most Wanted, Chuck Adair as to oversee a prison ministry and as leader of ministry and coordination. Adair still serves today as one of their ministers. Adair had an affair with a college girl years ago, has moved from youth ministry position to other youth ministry positions. And in 1992, he landed a job as a youth minister at Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland, TX, where he began a sexual relationship with a 13 year old girl who would roller blade over to his house for “counseling.” Adair married that same girl from prison the day after her 18th birthday. They divorced 2 years later and Adair is now married for the 3rd time. Adair has his supporters, like long-time church member Billy Faye Curtis, who said in an interview, “The girls would just throw themselves in his lap,” she said. “They loved him so much.” Others aren’t as convinced, like former church member Robin Kintz who said as a teen, Adair named her breasts, “Bip” and “Bop.” The article says of Adair’s current elders: “Dishman said elders haven’t restricted Adair because he limits himself.” Adair said he also abides by the church’s policy and sets his own boundaries. This isn’t too reassuring to me, since previous church leaders asked him to set boundaries, to which Adair reflected, “I set some, then violated them.”

July 2005–Then 55 year old Dr. Bert Thompson was fired from Apologetics Press for inappropriate sexual misconduct with several minor boys. Several victims came forward only to be met by church leaders who opted to protect Thompson’s “good” name. Sadly, there was a trail of slime that was blatantly obvious and could have prevented Thompson from rubbing his grimy fingers on more victims. A year and a half prior Thompson stood before a grand jury for allegations of sex with a 17 year old boy. “We had information about the allegations,” said Ted Norton, an Eastern Meadows elder. “We were not in a position to know whether they were true or not. We as individuals had our own personal feelings, but we did not have evidence so to speak.” Well, now we do.

I could go on and on. These are just ones that I found in the matter of a few minutes. There are more. . . many more. And these are just the ones involving people who got caught. I’ve worked with at least a dozen Churches of Christ where there are known incidents of abuse going on in the church and churches are either covering it up, or the perpetrators’ attorneys are able to find loop holes and get their clients off. In one case, an adolescent raped a very young boy in the church building. There was plenty of evidence (including blood and semen). There was a plea deal and that perpetrator still attends the church, minus any charges.

It is vital that we work together to protect our children. Their lives and souls depend on it.

Some Good News About Abuse!!

It’s so easy to get discouraged. All you have to do is turn on the local news or read a local paper. Even in our little town, stories of abuse abound. . . . and abound, and abound even more. Every few weeks, a name appears who I know personally. Here’s the bad news–these stories that appear on the news every day only include the abusers who got caught. For every abuser who appears in the paper, there are 10 more out there abusing scores of children unhindered.

OK, enough of the depressing news. The great news is that more and more survivors of abuse are being empowered to speak out and find healing, thanks to some wonderful people with huge hearts. And I predict this pattern is going to continue to emerge. There is strength in numbers, and more and more survivors are fed up with living in the shadows of their abusers. There are ministries being born out of conviction. I’m happy to see the work that my friend Angela Williams is doing over at Voice Today. As a survivor of child sex abuse herself, Angela has courageously placed herself in a vulnerable position to help others heal from their abuse while training others to prevent abuse.

James 1:12 (ESV) says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” I don’t say this lightly–anyone who is in the fight against Satan’s attack on the human soul will come under trial. Satan does not like healing and will do everything to discourage and deceive. I am proud that Angela and many other friends are fighting this fight along side us, in spite of the trials.

My good friend Les Ferguson, Jr. is another one of those faithfully fighting this battle. Les will be keynoting Angela’s Standing In the Gap Prayer Breakfast on November 1st in Marietta, GA. If you have not heard his story, you need to. Les is such an encouragement to so many. Please consider being a part of this event, whether you are able to attend or not. Angela will have survivors telling their stories of healing. There will be prayer, tears, and a lot of love at this event.

Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Prayer of Jabez) will be speaking in the evening at Emory University. Please consider supporting this wonderful effort and be encouraged that more and more people are joining forces to combat and prevent abuse!

Preventing Abuse: There Are No Monsters

I’m working my way through Gavin De Becker’s excellent book, The Gift of Fear. De Becker works with the highest ranking government officials, including presidents, to assess risk of violent behavior. He created the MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems, which is still used by the CIA, high profile public figures, and the public. Though De Becker specializes in predicting violent behavior, many of the principles should be applied to predicting child sexual abuse.

My experience working with churches tells me that they are generally way too trusting of everyone. The majority of church leaders I speak with equate kindness with morality and trustworthiness, they have a high level of naivety when it comes to protection of children, they are oftentimes strongly resistant to making drastic policy changes that include background checks on all volunteers and accountability for volunteers working with children, and they believe that they would be able to detect an abuser if he was among them. Put another way, they believe that abusers look like monsters and therefore are easy to spot. I might add that this is not a problem that’s isolated with churches. Daycares, schools, camps, and people employing babysitters are just as trusting of individuals.

But, as De Becker rightly observes, it’s precisely because we are looking for monsters that we are such good targets. In fact, abusers are not monsters at all. They are people like you and I. They look like us, talk like us, dress like us, work like us, pray like us, and are likely some of our best friends or family members. Because we don’t want to believe that people we personally know are capable of such crimes, we hear things in the news like, “He was such a nice man. I still don’t believe he was capable of doing such bad things. He must have just snapped.” De Becker’s point is that, simply because we ourselves wouldn’t commit a certain crime, we don’t want to fathom that our close friends would either. He says:
Every day people engaged in the clever defiance of their own intuition become, in midthought, victims of violence and accidents. So when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear: It is because we are so good at it. A woman could offer no greater cooperation to her soon-to-be attacker than to spend her time telling herself, “But he seems like such a nice man” (De Becker, 30).

Point well taken. It’s so important for us to realize that real crimes are committed by real people who don’t necessarily look like whack-jobs. De Becker adds:
So, even in a gathering of aberrant murderers there is something of you and me. When we accept this, we are more likely to recognize the rapist who tries to con his way into our home, the child molester who applies to be a baby-sitter, the spousal killer at the office, the assassin in the crowd. When we accept that violence is committed by people who look and act like people, we silence the voice of denial, the voice that whispers, “This guy doesn’t look like a killer” (De Becker, 46).

He recommends doing the exact opposite of what we are doing every day–we need to observe behaviors, not personalities. Crimes are never created out of thin air. People don’t just “snap.” There are always behavioral indicators prior to acting out. This applies to murderers and it applies to child molesters. We need to be more observant of behavioral patterns that indicate problems and malevolence. I recently had a person give me a laundry list of red flag behavioral issues with a man at church–he’s giving gifts to young kids, he offers to baby sit, he takes particular interest in certain kids, he tries to isolate them by offering rides, he invites them to his house, etc. I explained that he is very high risk and should be removed from activities which include children, to which this person replied, “But he’s so nice and is highly respected by everyone.” My response was, “So what?”

So many of us fall into the trap of believing that abusers look like monsters, that we don’t even want to entertain the possibility of abuse and so our interpretation of certain behaviors becomes tainted. Consider the questions we ask the applicant for the baby sitting job or the Youth Leader position at church–Are you good with children? What are your strengths? What is your experience working with kids in the past? These questions tell us nothing of their behaviors with children. Nor do they put a would-be abuser on the spot so that we can observe their mannerisms in real time. Should we not be asking questions like, “Do you have any sexual attraction to children? Have you ever physically touched a child inappropriately or thought about doing so? Have you ever viewed child pornography? What would you do if you felt a child was soliciting sex?, etc. We can learn a lot about a person by asking the right questions. A 3 second pause or a shift in the chair can reveal a lot of information. But rare is it that I speak to people who are asking these kinds of questions. We’ve got to do a much better job at prediction and prevention of abuse.

If you don’t believe me, take it from an abuser himself. I recently visited my dad in prison and he had this to say, “Two things shocked me each and every time I abused a victim–How easy it was to get a child to act out sexually and how easy it was to get away with it.” He is absolutely right, to our shame.

I Teach My Kids to Hate (And You Should Too)

The Bible, through the words of Jesus, instructs us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). If your enemy is hungry, we are told to feed him. If he is thirsty, we should give him drink (Romans 12:20). Point well taken. But the Bible also gives us another vital instruction. It’s one that we don’t take seriously enough, in my opinion. We don’t even like the word. Yes it’s true; we are told to hate. We’re not instructed to hate people, but to hate what is evil. Romans 12:9 (NIV) says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” This particular word for hate appears only here in all of the Bible. It is the strongest word for hate. It literally means “to have a vehement dislike for something.” It is likened to a state of rage. In contrast, we are to “cling” to what is good. That word means something like “being glued to; to be inseparable.”

Do we have a vehement hatred for evil? I mean, really–does the thought of evil make us rage inside? I’m not so convinced that it does. Neither am I convinced that we’re teaching our kids to hate evil. Let me give a little backdrop for why I hate evil. When I read story after endless story of abuse, especially abuse of children, something snaps inside of me. After hearing stories of shame, humiliation, and torture, Evil is no longer an abstract concept. It becomes personal. Extremely personal. People sometimes ask me, “Why do you subject yourself to all these stories of abuse and surround yourself with people who have been abused?” My answer is, “Why do you not?” Avoidance makes abuse no less real to the people it’s actually happening to. The vast majority of people in our nation choose to ignore this evil, and so it continues.

In my frequent travels, I hear lots of gut-wrenching stories of young children being sexualized and used for pervert predators’ own little sex experiments. Let me be clear–this is not an “attraction” or “addiction.” It is evil. Pure wickedness. Attraction means exactly that–someone is attracted, for whatever reason (I’m not arguing causality here), to children. Attraction turns evil when there is intent to act out. The word “addiction” does not properly explain child molestation either. There is a vast difference between addiction and abuse. Addiction is a craving for something. Abuse is a craving to act out on someone. Children are not drugs. They are humans. They have a soul. They are precious. When they are used, manipulated, sexualized, tortured, emotionally screwed with, brought to orgasm, forced to perform sex acts on adults, and thrown out, we cannot ethically say, “Boy, Eric was addicted to Jennifer.” Let’s not cheapen the child by referring to molestation as an “addiction.” Acting out on a child is always evil because every time molestation happens, an innocent child is harmed.

I am very cautiously optimistic about the epidemic of child sex abuse. The optimistic part comes from shaking hands with people like myself who are speaking out against abuse on a national (and some an international) level. Many people are listening and are willing to take strong measures to prevent abuse. This is commendable and hopeful. The very cautiously part comes from my experience speaking at churches. Church leaders are generally still naïve and are way too willing to give people the benefit of doubt. This reduces the likelihood of church leaders reporting suspected abuse in a timely manner. In fact, I’ve witnessed on several occasions strong resistance by church leaders to report alleged abusers because “they just don’t seem like the kind of guy who would do something like that.” I often tell people who respond this way not to confuse their desire for people to be pure and innocent with them actually being pure and innocent. I could wish all day long that my own father had not committed atrocities against multiple children. But that doesn’t change the fact that he actually did. We’ve got to stop pretending like evil is not around us. We can’t cower in fear, either.

Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” And so we unapologetically expose the works of darkness and shed light on the people who are abusing children in the dark. But more than exposing this darkness, we hate the evil. And we should have no embarrassment or apology for teaching our children to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Let’s start raising up the next generation to be kind, loving, and opposed to evil.

Tenancingo: Home Grown Sexual Abusers

Trucking had always been a dream of mine. I’ve always liked operating heavy machinery and traveling, so trucking was a natural fit. I drove truck coast to coast for one year in between college and seminary, while I was still single. My first time across the Rockies was in a bad snow storm. Dropping down a hill in a semi truck from 11,000 feet when it’s hammering snow is quite an experience! What makes it more adventurous is looking down and seeing other tractor trailers that have careened off the interstate to the bottom of ravines from years past. It’s an eerie feeling to see multiple unrecovered trucks at the bottom of a mountain. Once a truck has fallen so far, it’s impossible to tow it back up to the top of a mountain, so many of them end up being left there permanently.

I believe evil is the same way. Once someone has fallen so far down, it becomes impossible to tow them back to the top. I had a Bible professor who has another helpful analogy called the “chained dog” theory. Evil is like a dog that’s chained up. It has boundaries set by God. Evil still exists, but the chain restricts evil’s reach. We can either stay outside of evil’s reach, or we can taunt it and risk it latching on to us and dragging us deeper into its territory. Have any of you ever been to a place that is so dark, you can “feel” the evil?
chained dog

God warned the Israelites, “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away” (1 Samuel 12:24-25 NIV). Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Bible mentions evil and its variants (evils, evildoer, etc.) just shy of 500 times. There is a consistent message throughout the Bible that many Christians deny. . . there is a level of evil that creates a suction point, a trap, a point of no return.

The small town of Tenancingo, Mexico is one of these places. It is the breeding ground for a major pedophile ring and sex trafficking to the United States. Young children are saying that they want to be like their dads and sell women for sex. There is no remorse, and darkness plagues the town. Psychologists are divided on what “makes” a perpetrator act out on very young children. Is it psychological factors, environmental, genetic, addictions to pornography, etc.? To be fair, nobody really knows for sure. If we are honest, we would admit that there are many hidden factors, both in the brain and in the home, that we will probably never figure out as far as causality. But one thing we can probably all agree on is that perpetrators who sexually act out on children are committing an evil. And once you begin messing with the dog, eventually it’s going to bite. And in Tenancingo, the dog has claimed its territory and is dragging people all over the place. I highly recommend watching this documentary on Tanancingo’s trafficking of sex slaves to the US. It is worth every minute.
****WARNING: We need people to watch this and raise awareness that this stuff happens all the time****

So what’s my point? Or rather, what’s God’s point? At the top of the list, remember the old saying, “If you play with fire you’re bound to get burned?” Well, if you play with evil, you’re bound to get bit. According to Scripture, we’ve all done evil. But it’s the perpetual toying with it that leads to the point of no return. There is, however, great news in all of this. For those who struggle with pedophilic thoughts at a younger age, rehabilitation is quite successful. I’d encourage parents who have allegations come against their children to not be so quick to defend them. Rather, get them the help they need.

I’ve received several phone calls with similar scenarios–a 13-15 year old boy was inappropriately saying things, doing things, or was infatuated with young children. And in all the cases (so far), the parents or guardians defended the perpetrator, not the alleged victims. Folks, if you see your child getting too close to a chained dog, don’t tell everyone else to buzz off. Help pull your child from that evil. Seek professional guidance from a sex-specific therapist. Help your child get out before it is too late. The more children learn to keep this a secret, the more they will be emboldened to act out. Help them get out. Help them find a way to deal with their attraction and aggression toward younger children. Love does not defend evil. It helps pull people from it before they become so debased that they cannot stop.

Child Sex Trafficking In the Church

Amber Lyon did a great documentary a few years back called Child Sex Trafficking on the Internet–”Selling the Girl Next Door.” Take time to watch it. This is a must watch. She talks firsthand with the Johns who were caught buying underage girls for sex. She also speaks with young girls being trafficked. Underage girls are being sold for sex every day by the thousands on backpage.com. I’ve checked out backpage.com myself and there is no hiding it. It took me less than 30 seconds to find hundreds of young girls for sale.

The internet has accelerated the sex slave industry in more than a few ways. First of all, instant accessibility to thousands of children being sold online has made it too easy for predators to offend. In the documentary, Amber posted a picture of her in her 2 piece when she was 14 along with an ad for sex. Within 4 minutes of posting the ad she began getting bombarded with calls from men wanting sex, knowing she was (though only posing as) underage. Second, social networking has provided unlimited access of public pictures of young children, allowing predators to troll for the children of their choice so that they can feed their fantasy. See my Facebook: Playground for Pedophiles to see how prevalent this is. Finally, the internet provides an “escape,” a place where people can hide dirty little secrets and remain completely anonymous.

In Amber’s documentary, you’ll find what should be common sense to us all–prostitutes don’t enjoy doing what they do! As she interviews hookers at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, it becomes apparent through the tears that it’s a less than desirable “job.” As one prostitute weeps, she recounts her childhood molestation, “Virginity wasn’t an option where I came from. It was taken from me. When you get in the game and someone wants to sleep with you for money, and you’ve already lost your virginity, it’s like, ‘Why not?. . . Why not?’. . . . . Sex is not as sacred as it once was.” Dennis Hof, owner of the brothel, tells Amber why pimps seek young children to be trafficked–”They’re easily manipulated.” I interviewed former porn star Crissy Moran last year and asked her if she believed that the statistics are true that up to 90% of women in the sex industry have been sexually abused as children. Crissy said, “I definitely believe it’s true. The women in this industry are very broken.” Crissy herself had been sexually abused multiple times as a very young child. Living in a Christian home, virginity was idolized. When that was taken from Crissy at a young age, she too thought this of the idea of selling her body for money–“Why not?”

The maddening thing for me is that many of (if not the majority of) these women who were sexually abused as children were abused by trusted church members. This makes church one of the largest sex trafficking vehicles in the country. You may think I’m exaggerating, but everywhere I travel I’m told countless stories from survivors whose virginity was stolen from them at a young, young age. Heck, I don’t even have to travel to hear stories of sex abuse in the church. Several of my friends locally tell me story after story of sex abuse that has happened in their churches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make people fearful of churches or paint the idea that Christians are creeps. I’m a minister myself and I believe it’s the faith community that should be stepping up to turn this problem around. But to live in denial is the best way to ensure that the church’s trafficking of children continues. I can’t emphasize enough how prevalent abuse is in the church. And believe me, it’s not just Catholics.

I hope that I can shed a light on this atrocious evil that is being done in secret in the name of God. It’s not funny. It’s not something that happens every once in a while. It’s not something to take lightly. I leave in 2 days to conduct a seminar on abuse at a church in Michigan. I’ve already heard stories of saddening abuse from people who will be there and I will hear several more from people in my audience. It happens everywhere I speak. It is our job as Christians to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Ephesians 5:11-14 NIV). Folks, it’s time we get out the spotlights! Tell your church leaders that this problem is real, that it happens all the time, and that we won’t stand for the church being silent on the sex trafficking of our young children.

Be sure to check out Amber’s video:

Why You Shouldn’t Hire a “Mitter” (Male Baby Sitter)

Last week Lynn Perkins, CEO and co-founder of UrbanSitter.com, wrote a Huffington Post article titled Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Hiring a Male Babysitter. In the article, she lays out 3 reasons why parents should consider hiring a “mitter.” They are:
#1: It brings diversity to your child’s life and allows you to do your part to break down gender biases.
#2: They bring a different style of play.
#3: It’s an opportunity to provide your kids with a valuable male role model.

It didn’t take long for other articles to surface, praising this move to hire “mitters” and “mannies.” The push to hire the “manny” (male nanny) has been popularized in New York City. There is an increased demand in male sitters and nannies, and this is for a number of reasons. As I skim articles and comments, there seems to be a demand primarily because people don’t want to be labeled “sexist.” In fact, Perkins’ first reason to hire a “mitter” is that “it brings diversity to your child’s life and allows you to do your part to break down gender biases.” Allows you to do your part to break down gender biases? This very statement shows that we have lost the ability to look at differences between men and women objectively. Do we really need to hire a male baby sitter to “do our part” in breaking down the biases? If we objectively look at men and women who sexually abuse children, the facts themselves produce biases. Listen to what the famed Corey and Steve Jensen have to say:
The FBI estimates that there is a sex offender living in every square mile of the United States. One in ten men has molested children. Most child molesters are able to molest dozens of children before they are caught and have a three percent (3%) chance of being apprehended for their crimes. Boys and girls are at nearly equal risk to be abused and almost a quarter will be molested sometime before their 18th birthday. Fewer than five percent (5%) will tell anyone.1

I offer 3 reasons why people should not hire “mitters”:
#1 Men are far more likely to sexually abuse children than women
It sounds sexist, I know. But the facts speak louder than our self-righteous need to not sound like a misandrist. Estimates vary. Anywhere from 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 men have sexually abused children. In contrast, 1 in 3,300 women has sexually abused children (Abel & Harlow, The Stop Child Molestation Book, 2001, pg. 23). It is common knowledge that a person is far more likely to die in a car than in an airplane. We don’t cry foul at this finding because statistics prove it. Statistics should speak louder than our agendas. Statistically speaking, your child is far more likely to be abused by a male than a female. That does not mean that all males are sex offenders, or that women will never sexually abuse a child. It simply means that hiring a man puts your children at far greater risk of being abused.

#2 Background checks and trust make your family a prime target for sex offenders
The vast majority of sex offenders have never had any previous criminal background, making background checks a source of false security. I’ve read blog after blog and comment after comment touting “mitters” as something great–as long as you trust the person taking care of your kids. It is precisely because of trust that child abusers are empowered to abuse. When we completely trust people, our guards go down. My dad, who is currently serving a life sentence for child molestation, was a “manny.” I can tell you firsthand that he was the guy EVERYONE trusted. He passed background checks. He had glowing letters of recommendation. He was not socially awkward. Kids loved being around him. He was fun, kind, and caring. In short, he was the ideal guy to hire to watch your kids! But there’s something else we need to be aware of. Pedophiles who want to offend children will find opportunities to win the trust of others and gain access to children.

#3 Pedophiles find the path of least resistance
With the surge in “mitters” and “mannies,” pedophiles see an opportunity to gain access to children. How great is it for the offender to know that people are actively searching for male sitters? While I agree that men need to play an important role in children’s lives, I don’t think that person should be a hired baby sitter who has unlimited access to our children. The statistics are just too grim to open up that door. There is only a 3% chance of a child molester getting caught for any 1 instance of abuse, less than 5% of children ever tell when they are abused, and 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 men have molested a child.

These are reason enough not to hire a male sitter. You can argue that this will “ruin it” for the men who are not child molesters (and I don’t doubt that there are plenty of sitters who are not molesters). But, frankly, I’d rather ruin it for them than ruin something far worse for my children. Losing an opportunity for a job is not quite as devastating as a child losing his innocence to a predator.

White Out Child Sex Abuse

Seasonal hazardIt’s been a while since I’ve written. I’ve been traveling and speaking quite a bit and just didn’t make the time to write. One thing that people ask a lot is, “What can I do right now to help?” The topic of abuse is so overwhelming but I never want to give the impression that people have to have a Ph.D in order to combat abuse. In fact, as I travel some of the biggest shakers who are effecting change are people who simply show up and say, “ENOUGH!” I recently had a chimney fire and had to call 911. The firemen were at the house in less than 5 minutes. It took about an hour to put the fire out, but they were amazing and kept my family and house safe. I didn’t grill them about their level of education, or even their amount of experience. The reality is, I dialed 911 in a time of desperation and only the volunteers who showed up at my house could have put the fire out. Had nobody showed up when I called? According to the police sergeant, we would have found out the hard way 4 hours later.

One year ago I never would have dreamed that I’d be writing and traveling the country to speak on child abuse. How did this happen? It began in my own local community, simply by showing up. My story began when I decided to host a workshop at my local church in February 2013 and speak out against abuse. The whole community was invited and about 30 showed up. When people saw that I was serious about preventing abuse, things began to morph quickly.

I believe that the same can happen with you. It took a team of firemen to put my chimney fire out. But it took something more–it took them showing up to my house! We cannot prevent abuse if people are not willing to show up. 42 million people are survivors of child sex abuse in the US alone. In a world that makes sense, this is not acceptable.

So what can everyone who is reading this do right here and right now? It’s simple, actually. You can begin by joining my friend Angela Williams and pledging to join the event White Out Child Sex Abuse. You can print out flyers and let your community know. After signing the pledge, you agree to wear white on April 30th “TO STAND IN SOLIDARITY FOR THE INNOCENCE OF A CHILD AND A WOUNDED SURVIVOR.” You can also sign the Pledge To Protect, pledging to support your local community’s efforts to end child sex abuse, monitor one-on-one activity between adults or older youths and children, intervene and report suspected abuse, and get educated on how to predict and prevent child sexual abuse.

When someone dials “911,” be the hero who shows up and puts the fire out!

Rewind to Fast-Forward

Sasha 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.

Commentary on Dottie Sandusky’s Interview

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–”
A–”No.”
Q–”–On any of those occasions?”
A–”No.”
1

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.

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