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!

Exploited Children in Churches and How Our Denial Fuels Abuse

Surprisingly, I had never heard of the televangelist sensation Todd Bentley until a friend of mine showed me an outrageous Youtube video (thanks, John!). Known as the “BAM, BAM, BAM” faith healer with hundreds of thousands of followers”1, Todd is known for outrageous claims and violence on stage.

Though I believe that Todd is an embarrassment to Christianity and everything that Jesus stands for, the purpose of this blog is not to poke fun at Pentecostals. There are plenty of genuine Pentecostal/Charismatic believers who openly distance themselves from Todd and others. The purpose is, however, to generally demonstrate how easy it is for people to be blinded, manipulated, and groomed into believing the unbelievable while denying the reality of sexual abuse.

I admit that I am, as millions of other viewers are, intrigued with Todd Bentley. It is easy to get sucked into his videos because of the entertainment and shock value. But I have a tendency to profile nearly everyone and the more I watched Mr. Bentley, the more I began to see major red flags common to pedophiles–narcissism, the ability to quickly groom a crowd and gain trust, intentionally and unapologetically crossing boundaries (there is a video of Todd kicking a man with stage 4 colon cancer in the gut and the man falls over in pain), offering unwanted rewards, too helpful, too eager to be around children, too aggressive when confronted, too good to be true, etc.

It didn’t take but a few minutes to find that Todd has a dark past and has spent time in prison as a juvenile for sexually assaulting a 7 year old boy. “They were sexual crimes,” Bentley admits. “I was involved in a sexual assault ring. I turned around and did what happened to me. I was assaulted too.” “I don’t like to talk about it publicly because it would hurt [my ministry],” he concedes. “I don’t whip it out in the newspapers or on TV because people will go ‘Whaaa?’ I’ll say ‘I was in prison, period. Let’s move on.’”2 It is subtle and most people miss it, but narcissists begin most statements with “I.” Not only that, but when Todd speaks, the focus is all about Todd. “I” don’t like to talk about it. It would hurt “my” ministry. Sounds like a repentant sinner. . . or does it? Contrast him with King David, a truly remorseful sinner: “For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:17-18 ESV). Never mind, though, that a 7 year old boy has to live the rest of his days with the shame and guilt that “you” placed on him Mr. Bentley. We wouldn’t want that to get in the way of your ministry.

The fact that Todd admits “I turned around and did what happened to me” would turn the head of every professional psychologist who works with pedophiles, and it should church leaders as well. That fact is vital for public disclosure, since adult pedophiles, who were themselves molested as children more than 50 times, begin assaulting others at a much younger age (Todd Bentley was 14 when he assaulted the 7 year old) and they commit well over 100 more acts of abuse as non-abused molesters (Gene Abel, The Stop Child Molestation Book, pg. 321). Todd admits that he was part of a sexual assault ring, which implies this was not a one time event that happened to him. If Todd was abused more than 50 times, and if he had objective testing by a sex-specific therapist showing that he is sexually attracted to children, he is by clinical definitions a potential lethal weapon to children. But he will never submit to testing, nor will any church demand he be tested. Mr. Bentley, who divorced his wife in 2008 following an inappropriate relationship with his current wife, says that the subject of his past sexual assaults on children is “dead and buried to me.”3

Surely this stance is unacceptable to people who look up to Todd, right? When pastor Denny Cline of Albany, OR, who happens to consider himself a “spiritual son” of Todd Bentley, was asked about Todd’s past abuse with children, he replied, “I don’t think he told me that, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered in regards to what he is doing now, and the person that he is now…If he’s paid his debt to society and God’s forgiven him of everything, then who am I not to forgive?” “4

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway? To who? To the multiple young boys I’ve seen in Youtube videos with Bentley wrapping his grubby arms around them on stage as he nonchalantly caresses their shoulders? Should it matter to their parents who either blindly, like pastor Cline and God TV 5, ignore the fact that Bentley has a past of sexual assaults on a young boy, or who don’t know because Bentley insists on hiding it?

We parents and church leaders further exploit children by denying that abuse is going on in the churches. Children are extremely susceptible to suggestion, vulnerable, and malleable. Before blindly shoving our children into the hands of trusted church leaders, we ought to ask very hard questions and demand transparency. I close with a disturbing clip of Chris Harvey, a friend of Todd Bentley who put on quite the show when visiting Bentley at a Florida revival, tapping into the susceptibility of very young children. Shame on us when people like this go unquestioned by others:

How You Dress Your Child Matters. . .to Pedophiles

It’s still striking to me how many of my friends (un)knowingly post shirtless photos of their very young children on Facebook, making their children the object of gazing eyes of trolling pedophiles. Really, pictures of your young child bathing, swimming, or running around the house nude is not appropriate to display to hundreds of people. And for those who think that I’m exceedingly paranoid, just cruise Youtube for 30 seconds and you’ll find that there are countless channels dedicated entirely to snapshots and videos of (even very) young girls and boys which were stolen from Facebook accounts. Names of videos like these dominate Youtube:
Young hotties
Very young hotties dancing
Young cutie teen shaking her butt on cam
Collection of hot young pinay girls
Young hottie dancing (about 8 or 9 years old)
Young girl dancing with hot style
Facebook hot girls
Jailbait
Hot sexy girls self shots

What’s even more disturbing is how young girls have been endorsed by their parents to display themselves in public. With shrink-wrapped shorts and shirts which grossly display butt cheeks and cleavage, voyeurs don’t have to take to social media sites to have their imaginations stimulated. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the like are all just bonuses to real life encounters. Unlimited, free still and video images are up for grabs and here’s the kicker. . . unless they are explicit images of underage children, it’s all legal. As one whose father is a convicted pedophile who is in prison for the rest of his life, I told him that I now educate people on how to protect their children from molesters like him. As a result, he has given me invaluable insight into (1)just how easy it is for molesters to offend, especially in Christian places where people are typically way too trusting of everybody and (2)how to protect children from abusers. His answers are not atypical from other molesters so instead of quoting him directly, I will paint commonalities among a sample of many offenders which I’ve gathered from books, training workshops, training videos, and further research about and conversations with pedophiles. Hopefully people will take heed and begin to take steps to protect their children.

Point #1–Porn steers people toward pedophilia, normalizes it, and accelerates the need to view harsher, cruder, and younger images. What’s frightening is how normalized, mainstream, and available porn has become. What’s more frightening is just how many are viewing it. Pornography drives the imagination and the imagination dumps fuel onto human desire, confusing the desire for more stimuli with the need for more. Porn also blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Philip Jenkins, author of Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet notes that pornographers quickly learned that by falsely offering child pornography sites, they have captured a huge audience with which they are gaining massive profits. Though the females are 18 or older, Jenkins rightly notes that “countless ‘adult’ images portray grown women as schoolgirls or with shaved pubic hair. While the patrons of adult magazines or Web sites would be appalled to be told they had anything in common with the loathed pedophiles, some of the psychological stimuli are related. . . those interested in child pornography might not be so far removed from the ‘normal’ population. The gulf with normality is all the narrower when the materials in question involve young teenagers” (p. 30).

Viewing pornographic images, including child pornographic images, in public schools is nothing new and is actually quite common. A friend of mine works IT at a public school and, though there is a substantial firewall in place, pornographic images are accessed very often by staff and students. Donald Cherry, a 27 year old history teacher in Tulsa, had three students aged 14-16 catch him looking at pornography. When the students asked to see the images again, Cherry allowed them to view the porn. He was eventually caught and the investigation revealed 8 pictures of child porn on his computer. At his sentencing, Cherry said, “I’m very big into escapism and leaving reality behind” (Pamela Paul, Pornified, p. 177). The reality, Mr. Cherry, is that those graphic images of children in compromised poses were really taken by some pervert who exploited the innocence of those children for your “escapism.”

It is no secret that porn is constantly pushing the limits on what is “normal.” Children who enter the porn industry at 18 are being made to look younger and younger and are forced to do more and more. Hardcore lewd sex acts such as anal penetration, double penetration, gangbangs, ATMs (ass to mouth), transgender sex, sadism, homosexuality, and bestiality are leaving less and less to the imagination for casual viewers. It’s no wonder tens of thousands of men are suffering from erectile disorders in real life and are forcing their sexual partners to perform the same lewd acts they see on their monitors, including making them shave pubic hair and dress up as schoolgirls (Ibid, 211-238). But don’t take my word for it. In the words of a pedophile, “If you want to cut the snake off at the head, address the pornography issue.” And so I do.

Point #2–Fantasy, especially masturbatory fantasy, sustains molesters’ momentum. I will address the dress code for your children in the next point, but it cannot be emphasized enough that constant fantasy motivates and drives the molester. A couple months ago I was in Michigan visiting my in-laws. Our 3 year old daughter loves to ride carousels, so we have a tradition of going to the mall and letting her ride with Grandma and Grandpa. I watch people. An older man looked out of place and could not take his eyes off the carousel. Every time a certain young child went around (thankfully it was not my daughter or I may be in jail), he became fixated on her. When she got off, the next group came on. Same thing. I quickly learned that he preferred girls about 8 years old with long dark hair, tight shorts, and dark complexion. Every time. We left the mall and came back a couple hours later. My daughter wanted to ride the carousel one more time. This same creep was in the same spot watching and fantasizing about his next victim. I reported him to the operator and she said, “I didn’t notice until you told me, but that same guy was here for several hours last night.” She called security on him. What we may view as innocent, the pedophile manipulates, fantasizes about, and masturbates to the images he has stored in his mind. Be aware of who is gazing upon your children at all times.

Though this video is dated, it shows that imagination plays a huge role in pedophiles. Here, they act out their fantasies with children in a virtual playground:

Point #3–How you dress your child matters. . . to the pedophile. Most of us don’t give a 2nd thought to how we dress our very young children. We’re just glad to get them out the door without any major meltdowns! But molesters will tell you that how you dress your child plays a significant role in whether or not they will begin targeting your child for the grooming process. According to pedophiles, the following is what most likely will grab their attention (this includes children as young as infants). Cute sundresses, especially if underwear is exposed when they are playing. Tight clothing, including shirts and shorts. Anything that is revealing whatsoever. Done up hair, like cute braids or pig tails. This doesn’t mean you can never braid your kids’ hair. Just beware that by doing so your child is becoming more appealing to child molesters.

What will deter a molester? Loose fitted clothing. Plain hair. Jeans. If wearing a dress, let it be at least knee length and don’t allow underwear to be exposed. I would add NEVER post nude pictures of your young child on social websites and NEVER allow your child to post revealing pictures on their social pages. This includes “sexy” pictures in front of a mirror, swimsuit poses, etc. Though it’s not common, people have used geotags in photos to show up at strangers’ houses. But the point is that thousands of Facebook and Twitter images are being trolled for every day by pedophiles. They steal, copy, and distribute pictures of your child without your ever knowing it. Be wise. Set your photos on Facebook to a private setting so that only friends can see your pictures. And don’t friend a bunch of random people you don’t personally know. To do so is to invite disaster.

Point #4–It is embarrassingly easy for molesters to groom and offend children. It does not have to be done in the quiet of the night, either. Quite often, children are abused in front of their parents and the parents have no idea. Watch the way other people touch your children. A good rule of thumb I have is, keep your gropy hands off my kid. I’ve read account after account of molesters who slip a hand inside a shirt or rub up against genitalia purposely in front of the child’s parents as a test (they are testing groomability of the child). The parents surprisingly don’t notice because they’re not looking for it. I do. I recently was visiting a church and was holding my daughter. An old man came up and as I was holding my daughter he kept poking his finger into her stomach. She obviously didn’t like it but he persisted. I almost lost it. I kept my composure but turned my back on him and made a rude comment that he heard. I don’t care. She is my daughter and I have a right obligation to protect her the best I know how. So do you.

**Editor’s Note** After I first published this blog, a good friend of mine who is also a therapist made some very valid points and I would like to clarify. I am not saying that, if you dress your child a certain way, he or she will become a victim of abuse. There are many types of offenders, from sadists (who are the minority), to grabbers (also a minority), to groomers (the majority), opportunists, etc. They carefully select the most vulnerable child and will molest them no matter what they are wearing. But I did want to make the point that masturbatory fantasy is extremely important in pedophiles to the point of obsession. We must be careful not to make our children more vulnerable by being careless about posting pictures of them with little or no clothing.

The number one thing that pedophiles are looking for is access. Can I groom the parent to allow me time alone (i.e. babysitting, “fun day,” field trip, bathing them, etc.) with their child? Some pedophiles are persistent. Others will quickly back away if access is denied.

Facebook: Playground for Pedophiles

As I study pedophilia, trends of child sex abuse and exploitation, and ways to prevent abuse, it becomes excedingly clear: pedophiles brazenly abuse right before our very eyes. If you think this is an exaggeration, it is not. It is a rule that is as true as the law of gravity. Always. To make matters worse, churches are the primary target for sex offenders. There are a number of reasons, but the main reason is that access to children is abundant and unhindered, in most cases. There is a high level of naivety among churchgoers, and we want to believe the best in others. I know, I am a minister. That’s what we believe about Scripture and about God–that God can and does transform people. Here is where we have a major blind spot, though. We believe that our churches house those transformed people, and that very little sin exists within our four walls, especially if the majority of our attendees are Christian. Unfortunately, this is not completely true. In fact, the more we adhere to that belief system, the easier it is for pedophiles to fly under the radar within our churches.

Worse yet, pedophiles will find the path of least resistance. Always. They find locations, people, and media outlets where they can find safety in numbers, where people (adults included especially) are easy to groom and fool, and where the exploitation of your children can take place unabated. The more I am in ministry, the less naive I am becoming. It saddens me to see how many of my Facebook friends unknowingly place pictures of their children into the hands of pedophiles. While pictures of your prepubescent children bathing are cute to you, they have no place on Facebook. Neither do pictures of them at their dance recitals, in bathing suits, or the like. And if your settings for the pictures are pulic, they are being copied and traded among pedophiles on Facebook. You can count on that. Again, if you think I am exaggerating, I have witnessed blatant pedophilic trading on Facebook first hand. It is pulic, it happens every minute of every day, and it is a thriving business. I commend the work of activist Raymond Bechard, who created the website stopchildpornonfacebook.com.

I have posted a video below of Raymond unpacking the world of child porn on Facebook below. I must warn you that it is extremely disturbing and must be viewed with discretion. Anyone who has a child or grandchild, and especially anyone who has pictures of your children on Facebook, needs to be aware of the risks you may be putting them at. I am fully aware that this is not a popular subject, but I assure you that the more we ignore it, the more we create paths of least resistance.
*** WARNING–The following content, while censored, is still extremely disturbing to those not familiar with child abuse. Use your discretion and do not allow your children to view ***

Pedophiles Using Facebook As Their Dark Playground from Richard Lepoutre on Vimeo.