Why sexual abuse goes unnoticed

Hidden abuse

Nobody wants to think they would ignore the signs of abuse. But they do. I did. Some always will. Abusers do not always isolate children to molest them. The world was shocked as survivor after survivor explained that Larry Nassar would penetrate their vaginas without gloves, for up to 40 minutes at a time, while their parents were in the same room just feet away. He would whisper in their ears, “How does this feel?” As I listened to an army of brave survivors describe how Nassar abused them in front of adults, I was not shocked in the least. My father is a pedophile. I wrote him a letter a couple years ago asking if there was anything that consistently surprised him all of the times he successfully molested children. He wrote back from prison, “The one thing that always surprised me is how easy it was to fool adults. Oftentimes, after abusing kids right in front of them, I had to pinch myself and ask, ‘Are these adults really this stupid?'” I’ve personally listened to countless survivors tell me how often their abusers would molest them in front of adults. All of them have wondered, “Why did nobody protect me from my abuser?”

All of my research began to focus on what techniques abusers use to molest children in open spaces. As the son of a pedophile, I obsessed over the fact that we all missed it with my father. I was one of those adults who didn’t protect kids from their abuser–my father. But I genuinely did not recount a single time where I remembered him abusing them either. I learned that pedophiles are not just manipulative. They are literally using the same techniques magicians use to keep adults blind to the abuse. I was fascinated with this finding. I learned that, in order to see the abuse from pedophiles in real time, we need to stop looking for them and instead start looking for us! As Nassar molested his hundreds of victims and my father his dozens, how did they see those of us who were standing in the same room? How did they know that we were not catching on to them as they groped, caressed, and violated these children while looking at us? What were their exact techniques? I began growing increasingly frustrated with the “red flag behavior” that experts share about abusers. These signs are so generic that it tells us nothing about how abusers abuse and get away with it. By the time anyone notices “red flag behavior” it’s too late. Children have already been abused.

Should we assume, then, that parents and adults are just naive? Or that they don’t care? Rachael Denhollander gave a heart-stopping statement where she named victim after victim who told adults that they felt uncomfortable around Larry Nassar. Each and every time, the adults, including investigators, excused the abuse away. It’s inconceivable for most untrained people to believe that a child can be molested in the same room as an adult–especially a parent–and that adult not see it. So when children tell their stories, they are told that they must have “misunderstood” what really happened. Children who are molested, especially when their parents are nearby, have no understanding that the abuser is using very specific techniques to fool the adults into believing they’re not seeing the abuse. Rachael described brilliantly what every little child experiences when adults fail to protect: “As Larry was abusing me each time, I assured myself that it must be fine because I thought I could trust the adults around me.” Nassar knew that every one of these little girls was thinking this, and this is one of the reasons why it’s important for the pedophile to molest a child with their parent just feet away.

But again, should we assume that the adults don’t care? Kyle Stephen’s parents, who radically defended Nassar for years and repeatedly made Kyle apologize to Nassar, certainly cared. When Nassar had charges brought against him, Kyle’s father did what he could to make amends for not believing her. He was so riddled with guilt and shame for not believing his little girl that, in 2016, he committed suicide.

So why did hundreds, if not thousands, of adults fail these children, including their own parents who were in the same room as they were penetrated? While there certainly were some adults who didn’t care, we cannot assume that the majority of them just didn’t care. We’ve got to stop assuming that all adults don’t care and instead look at the techniques abusers use to keep us blind. I recently discovered a brilliant book by the husband-wife team of neuroscientists Macknik & Martinez-Conde called Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions. This book was my “aha!” moment. They say, “The spooky truth is that your brain constructs reality, visual or otherwise. What you see, hear, feel, and think is based on what you expect to see, hear, feel, and think. In turn, your expectations are based on all your prior experiences and memories.” Every word inside of this book juxtaposed with the hundreds of letters from prison by my father began to reveal a very clear picture. We are all incredibly “hackable” and abusers intuitively know it. I glossed over the apostle Paul’s words for years and now they jump off the page at me: “. . .evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

Magicians make a living off of hacking our belief system. They are masters at deception. They know what the audience expects to see, hear, feel and think. They hack our “want to believe system” and show us exactly what our brains expect to see, hear, feel, and think based on past experiences. Kyle Stephens’ parents wanted to believe the best in Nassar. Put another way, they didn’t want to believe that their 12 year old daughter had be sexually violated for 6 years by Nassar. He was a family friend. Larry Nassar knew this, hacked their belief system, and made it their new reality. When confronted by Kyle’s parents, Nassar was not nervous because he already knew exactly what conclusion they expected to hear from him. And he delivered the rehearsed response with eloquence. Kyle recounted what Nassar said in that meeting: “I listened to you tell me, ‘No one should ever do that. And if they do, you should tell someone.'” Nassar knew that making it appear as a “misunderstanding,” combined with the fact that the Stephens’ wanted to believe that “no one should ever do that” was a guarantee that his audience would latch on to this expectation and make it their new reality. The power of this technique can’t be overstated.

I see this happen over and over and over again. Church leaders, when presented with the facts, will choose to believe that the person they love and respect is not capable of abuse. Or that he is remorseful and repentant and will never do it again. It’s not that they don’t believe the child. It’s that they don’t want to believe the child. Abusers hack this belief system and make that a new reality for the church leaders. Leaders almost always soften their approach to the abuser when face to face with him in a confrontation. I’ve studied this phenomenon for the past 7 years. I began to get increasingly angry with church leaders who defended abusers at the expense of their victims. As a minister, I wanted to get into the minds of people like me from the perspective of an abuser. The abuser knows exactly what church leaders expect to see, hear, think, and feel–what they want to believe–and so he delivers. Every single time.

Until we start teaching people the specific techniques abusers use to keep others blind, we will never be able to prevent abuse effectively. When I train people, I do demonstrations. Seeing is believing and is way more powerful than another lecture on abuse. It’s a way to “pull someone up on stage” with the abuser–to allow my audience to see us the way abusers see us. A couple years ago I started doing a facility walk through where I demonstrate just how easy it is to exploit people, their belief systems, and their buildings. Last year I was asked to train staff at a Christian camp. I had 5 volunteers–none of whom were abuse survivors–and I asked if I could touch them in benign ways throughout the day to see if others on staff noticed the behavior. What stunned me was how blatantly I could touch them (hugs, petting hair, breaking them off from the rest of the group, etc.) and at first nobody noticed. The first encounter was an exaggerated hug with a volunteer. We counted 9 people who made eye contact with us. I later asked the group how many people saw me hug this male staff member. Only 2 said they saw anything and neither of them thought it odd that I was embracing one of their staff members right in front of them.

These techniques aren’t a checklist that I can put down into a blog. It’s something that people need to experience. And what I’m seeing is that once others know the techniques pedophiles use to abuse kids in front of us, they can see things in real time and intervene before the abuse happens. There is no reason why Nassar, or my father, or any other pedophile who uses sleights of mind, shouldn’t be intercepted and stopped before they can carry out these egregious and horrific crimes. The following video is one that forever changed the way I understand pedophiles. When I first watched this, I shouted at my computer, “That’s it!” Apollo Robbins’ question at the end is more prophetic than he knows: “If you could control someone’s attention, what would you do with it?”

Three predictions for sexual abuse in the church for 2018

Graph

I am no prophet who can predict the future, but I do pay attention to patterns. Patterns can be good predictors, and it’s my attention to patterns that has helped me develop some powerful insight into the mind of pedophiles. In my work with churches, I always pay attention to patterns–what are some universal responses to abuse, the most common questions, biggest concerns, etc. And I read and analyze news stories on abuse every day. So what are some of my predictions for how 2018 will play out?

#1 Churches will continue to be sympathetic to abusers
This is, by far, the biggest uphill battle that we will continue to face. The church has become a refuge for registered sex offenders. The dirty little secret is that I have yet to visit a church that doesn’t have at least one registered sex offender. This is no exaggeration. Sadly, the lay church members are rarely made aware by the leadership. This toxic pattern is driven by bad theology (no sin is worse than others) and is fueled by abusers building the ideal facade. When I train churches, I actively demonstrate techniques abusers use in churches to abuse kids. I used to get frustrated that, no matter how much or how convincingly I spoke, church leaders still believed that “keeping an eye” on the abuser was enough. It is not. Many of you survivors know how brazen your abusers were. Being in a public place is not a deterrent for them. At all. They will still molest children when others are within eyesight. So I shifted to demonstrations. Seeing is believing, so I demonstrate that we are not as perceptive as we think we are. Nevertheless, the vast majority of churches will continue to be swooned by dangerous child rapists in 2018.

#2 Child sex abuse will be a hot button topic
Ironically, many churches are talking about child sexual abuse and are coming out of of denial. Sadly, this is because it usually takes a personal experience to awaken us to the reality of abuse. I personally don’t believe that in most cases “silence is acceptance.” I was silent for years, until it happened in our church. I’ve always hated abuse. God knows, I turned my own father in. But I literally had no idea it was so common because I hadn’t been awakened to it. Many, many churches are being awakened to it because survivors are tired of living in silence while their abusers waltz their way through life, producing more and more victims. We are witnessing a radical cultural shift where churches have no choice but to address sexual abuse in all of its forms. Which leads me to #3.

#3 Survivors are outing their abusers like never before
This is the one that is most encouraging. Survivors are almost always made to believe that they are alone, that somehow the abuse was their fault, and that if they tell there will be major consequences. The Harvey Weinstein scandal opened the floodgates, flipped the script, and has activated an army of survivors who are ready to fight for justice. My opinion is that the Jerry Sandusky, Jared Fogle, Bill Cosby, and Anthony Weiner cases laid the foundation for survivors to become empowered. They were all high profile cases and the public was outraged as more and more details were released. When the Weinstein case broke, millions of brave survivors shouted, #MeToo! Just in the last 30 days, we’re seeing politicians, a host of Hollywood actors, news anchors, and comedians being outed as abusers, including names like Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Richard Dreyfuss, Steven Seagul, Sylvester Stalone, Al Franken and on and on it goes. Here is a partial list of recent accusations. And let’s not forget how public Corey Feldman has been, naming pedophiles by name and promising to out every Hollywood pedophile he knows. If you’re like me, you’ve not been able to keep up with the abuse scandals that broke in the past seven days. The list continues to grow, and will continue to do so in 2018. For the first time in a long time, abusers who go on to abuse run a very big risk that their closet skeletons will be brought out for the world to see.

Comment on some trends that you see.

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.

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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I Am Legion, For We Are Many

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.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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.

See some of you on Saturday!