Raising Stalker-Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe From Abuse

Raising Stalker Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe from Abuse

By Guest blogger Dawn Damon, award-winning author of
When the Woman Abused Was Me

 

In June of this year, 51-year-old Wisconsin school bus driver was charged and jailed after keeping a 15-year-old girl on his bus, pressuring her to come home with him, and forcing unwanted physical contact with her. He was charged with child enticement, child abduction, and stalking.

This case and others like it are far too prevalent. We can bewail culture, poor parenting, the government, schools, the media, political parties, or the high school teacher who gave us that grade we didn’t deserve, but the truth is that predators exist, and most of them are good at hiding their predatory nature. So as parents and caretakers, we must do all we can do to raise safety savvy, stalker-savvy kids.

We want to keep our children safe.We hope and pray that bus drivers, coaches, teachers, friends, friends’ siblings, and our child’s friends’ parents don’t present a threat to our kids. But the truth is that no parent or caregiver can assure their child 100% safety in the world, just as we can’t assure them they’ll never be in a car accident or get cancer.

 

The world is a scary place. According to the FBI, in 2016, 465,676 children were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 2017). And since many missing children are never reported, there is no way to determine the true number. Then consider the additional one in five girls and one in twenty boys who become victims of sexual assault.

So what can we do to protect the children we love and care for from abuse?

First, it’s important to understand that no parent or caretaker, no matter how well-intentioned, loving, and responsible, can ensure that their child will never be harmed by someone. It is simply impossible to protect children from every possible scenario that exists. But the following guidelines can help you make the world a safer place for the children you love.

  • Begin early. Talk about sexual safety when your children are small. Teach young children the names of their body parts and that certain parts are private.
  • Teach privacy. Be sure your children know that certain parts of the body should not be seen or touched by others. Stay with your child for medical exams.
  • Teach your child to say ‘no.’ Children should learn to listen to their instincts. If they feel uncomfortable about touch, they should say ‘no.’ Let them know they can and should say no to adults who cross boundaries or make them feel awkward. Then reinforce it when you are with them.
  • Teach your child to tell. Children need to know that perpetrators try to trick kids. Roleplay different ways someone might lure them. Teach them that abusers lie and ask children to keep secrets. Teach them to expect to be told that terrible things will happen if they tell an adult. Let your child know you will protect them, and that telling is the best and right thing. Explain that telling is the only way to protect themselves and others and for the perpetrator to get needed help.
  • Assure them they won’t get in trouble. Experiencing abuse is never a child’s fault. Make sure they understand they won’t be punished if they tell you, and telling when someone is someone else is courageous. Be a safe place for your child.
  • Make time. Be available to talk about everyday life with your kids—school, sports, friends. What’s happening? Who do they spend time with? What are those people like? Listen to your child’s concerns as a regular part of your day.
  • Use your life. Give illustrations of safe conduct from your life or the lives of those you know. Or provide examples from the media. Talk about safety as the topic naturally comes up.

Warning Signs:  Children are often reluctant to talk about sexual abuse, even when asked directly, and understandably so. Be alert to changes in behavior, such as personality changes, anger, grades dropping, regression (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, etc.), new fears, clinginess, acting out, nightmares/sleeping problems, or self-harm.

Most importantly, know that whether you are educating a child or responding to a child’s tragic story of abuse, your calm, loving, reassuring attitude will lay a foundation for healing, hope, resilience, and a sense of safety in an uncertain world.

#resilience #childabuse #childabusesafetytips #parenting #safetysavvykids #childpredators

 

Dawn Damon is the award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused and the recently released When the Woman Abused Was You. She is an

author, national speaker, radio host, and pastor. Her first book won multiple awards for excellence and is used by educators, community outreaches, therapists, and prisons across the country. You can find her at dawnscottdamon.com.

Winning with Meekness

 

Topeka 021

 

What are your first thoughts when you hear the word meek?

For most of my life, I was a foot-dragger when it came to the thought of being meek. Yeah, yeah, I know the Bible says “the meek inherit the earth.” And I certainly wanted to be blessed–both in my life on earth and in the next life with God.

But I believed meekness meant being a doormat, handing over my rights to someone else, walking around with downcast eyes and a lowered head, and submitting to everyone else’s opinions.

Of course, this was stuff I made up in my head, but the word meek sounded so wimpy.

My fears about meekness didn’t make sense because Jesus was never a doormat.

He did exactly what He needed to do every moment of His life to glorify God the Father. No one obstructed Jesus in carrying out His purpose and plan or sharing His love. He expressed anger, as well as strong and unpopular opinions. He stood against the status quo. He broke tradition. He subsumed every thought, word, and action to glorify God, no matter the cost.

So if Jesus is the true picture of meekness, what is it?

In biblical times, two things had to be present in order for someone to exercise meekness.

  1. A conflict or difficult situation
  2. Inability to control one’s circumstances

When we find ourselves in tough circumstances that we’re unable to control, we typically become frustrated, angry, bitter, and manipulative. But the meek person, like Jesus, trusts God’s ability to guide events without his or her intervention (Gal 5:23 ; Eph 4:2 ; Col 3:12 ; 1 Tim 6:11 ; Titus 3:2 ; James 1:21 ; 3:13)

Meekness is strength that chooses weakness, perseverance, and resilience, in order to glorify God and serve others.

An example would be a wild stallion that chooses to submit its strength to be tamed and serve the needs of its owner. The horse doesn’t relinquish its strength but allows it to be harnessed for the profitable use of a master. This is the kind of life we should seek as Jesus-followers;

  • Meekness in our words
  • Meekness in our actions
  • Meekness in our thoughts
  • Meekness in our motives

So how do we win when we build meekness into our lives?

  • We learn to trust God more. The meek don’t expect to see justice here and now. They trust God to work things in His time and for our good in ways that we may not see in this life. They can rest in the character of God.
  • We learn that our circumstances don’t define our lives. We sing all kinds of songs about God being in control, being Lord of all, and being sovereign. But when a crisis hits, we often default to panic. The meek understand that we can’t see what God is doing behind our circumstances. The meek rest in knowing they don’t see God’s Bigger Picture.
  • We grow to be more like Jesus. Once we understand the true power of meekness, things in our life begin to fall away: worry, fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness. We become more like Jesus.  
  • We love others more selflessly. Meekness directs our hearts toward others and helps us look at people through the lens of love. Love always moves us to action on behalf of others.
  • Meekness builds resilience. It requires perseverance through difficult times for a greater good. Meekness teaches endurance and the ability to endure pain for a deferred reward. This requires strength, courage, and fortitude.

To hear more on the topic of meekness, listen to Freedom Girl Radio on Monday evenings at 7:00CT with host and Freedom Coach Pastor Dawn Damon at BlogTalk Radio. And I’d love to here your thoughts and experiences.

 

Encouraging Ourselves Through Truth Talk

vineandbranchesLately I’ve been focuing on the the truth that Jesus is the vine and I am a branch. This means that I’m connected directly to Him. My life flows from Him. My nourishment comes from Him. I can’t do anything that isn’t connected in some way to Him.

I have to admit that I don’t always feel spiritually connected. I need encouragement. Aches and pains, financial challenges, relationship heartaches, and other frustrations can infect my attitude before I have a chance to figure out what day it is (sometimes that takes ALL day). One of the key aspects of practicing my “vine life” has been remaining in conversation with Jesus. To do this I literally envision Him standing beside me (because He IS with me) and telling me all the things He’s said to me in His Word that apply to my life in that moment or in my hurts and challenges.

Conversing with God is one of the best ways to encourage yourself. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10.) This means that I sit quietly as Jesus tells me who I REALLY am. Who He REALLY is to me. What my REAL purpose is in life and on this particular day. What I am responsible for (obedience, loving God and others, trust, repentance) and what He is responsible for (loving and taking care of me).

The more we converse and stay connected to the vine, the more encouraged we become because we focus on truth and Jesus.

For more help on transforming your self talk, check out The Silent Seduction of Self Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God. and to hear more from me and author Wanda Sanchez on the topic of encouraging yourself, tune in to the Freedomgirls Sisterhood blogtalk podcast with host Dawn Damon Monday nights at 8:00ET.

 

Confidence in the Real You

window-view-1081788_960_720

 

When I was young, I lived for my father’s approval. 

Dad was a strong Christian, a great provider, and a morally unwavering and faithful husband who doted on our mother. But he wasn’t perfect. No earthly father is perfect. For many years into my adulthood, most of my achievements were driven by the desire for my father’s approval.

The inner child inside me was longing to hear him say, “That’s wonderful, Shelly, but you don’t have to do anything for me to love you. I love you just the way you are.”

This desire for belonging and inherent value is wired into all of us–men and women alike.

And if we don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between self-worth and self-esteem, we will struggle for a lifetime.

Self-worth is the unchanging reality of my value and worth. Talking about self-worth is like saying that a five dollar bill is worth five bucks. My feelings don’t influence the value of the money in my purse (now wouldn’t that be fun?). If it did, I might try paying for a Caribbean cruise with a $10 bill. Our self-worth is fixed and set by God. As my friend Pastor Dawn Damon says, “The most important thing about me is I am who God says I am.”

I can’t change my self-worth by impressing God because my value is based on what Jesus did for me. I’m already priceless.

I can stop living for approval.

Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves, based on the things we do and how we feel about ourselves.

Our understanding of our true self-worth as Christians should determine our self-esteem. 

We are who God says we are. God sees His children as flawless. We’re joint heirs with Jesus Christ. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have a bragfest when they talk about us because they see us as perfect kids.

Can you imagine? But it’s true. God DELIGHTS in His children.

Unfortunately, we often refuse to believe or accept this. We can’t seem to find a way to get off the well-beaten path of approval-seeking. We struggle for the approval of parents, friends, church leaders, bosses or fellow employees, those in our social circle, people we admire or want to impress…the list could go on and on.

This was me for a very long time. And sometimes it still is because I make the mistake of listening to negative emotions and self-talk. We struggle with self-esteem because we believed the lie that we need other people’s approval to measure up. But this is because we don’t understand and claim our self-worth. When we recognize that we are immeasurably treasured, loved, valued, and accepted apart from performance, we can free ourselves from the approval of others.

I still live for my father’s approval–my Heavenly Father. But it’s not to gain His grace or favor. It’s because I’m grateful for everything He’s done for me.

I invite you to listen to a candid and heart-changing discussion about self-worth and self-esteem this evening at 8:00 ET on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio with Pastor Dawn Damon, Wanda Sanchez, and myself. You can also read more on this topic in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

 

Courage to be Perfectly Imperfect You

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

 

What does being courageous look like to you? Enduring a painful divorce? Walking through a frightening diagnosis and illness? Facing the death of a loved one? Finally walking through the pain of your abusive past?

We all can claim our personal fears and imperfections. Finding a voice was one of my greatest struggles. As a child, I wasn’t given the opportunity to freely express my opinions, to disagree, or to ask questions. I was often told what I was supposed to think and given no opportunity to state my fears or defend myself against accusations.

Like many people, I learned to protect myself by pleasing others.

So as I moved through my adult years, one aspect of courage for me has been to learn to be comfortable being the perfectly imperfect me. What does this mean? First and foremost, I’m a child of God. Everything about me is rooted in my security as His own child, chosen and loved.

Because I’m God’s child I find courage in Him:

1. My purpose, identity, and confidence are secure.

This gives me courage to set a course and direction that may oppose culture, popular thinking, or the advice or friends and loved ones. Living out God’s purpose for my life may require sacrifice and suffering, may mean laying down my life for others, but I find courage as I lean on God’s direction in my life and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Living a life of godly integrity and Christlike love surpasses pleasing others to protect myself.

We live in a post-Christian culture. I am who God says I am and I know my purpose here on earth because I believe what God says and trust who He is.

2. I no longer fear failure.

Courage wisely tells us that “failure” is an opportunity for learning, growth, and God’s redirection in my life. For instance, the loss of a job is an opportunity for ministry in a new environment or reevaluation of how to better apply my skill set. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate how I fit into my previous work environment and whether or not I was the best match for that position and why. This process is an opportunity for growth.

God builds purpose into every element of our lives. Nothing is wasted if we have a heart that’s willing to be taught. Failure is simply a matter of perspective and certainly nothing to fear, since we all fail.(For instance,I never got off the knot in “climb the rope” in gym class, and it really hasn’t affected my life much. Except I’ll probably never be an aerialist, and we can all thank God for that.)

3. I can admit I’m imperfect.

I cry easily. My house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be. I don’t floss my teeth. I’m twenty pounds overweight. I’m not as patient with my husband as he deserves.

As imperfect as I am, God sees me as flawless.

The list of my imperfections and sins is longer and messier than I could or should write about in a blog.

But my sins are forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. I don’t have to pretend I’m perfect or be ashamed because I’m not.I can live in freedom and gratitude. Because I understand the amazing grace and mercy I’ve been granted, I’m motivated to live in a cycle of faith and repentance, extending forgiveness and grace freely to others.

My goal is to never stop being overwhelmed by God’s goodness, mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.

4. I can drop the pretense. 

I know I’m not okay and neither are you. We’re, hopefully, both sinners saved by grace. I can drop the pretense. I’m a mess and you’re a mess. We just struggle with different messes and are in different places in our struggles. Our churches are filled with broken, forgiven people. As my former pastor says, his job was to try to get as many of them to heaven in the best shape possible.

It’s our job to try to help one another get to heaven in the best shape possible.

5. To help one another, we need to have the courage to be vulnerable.

This means talking about our brokenness and imperfections, our struggles and pain. This means dropping the pretense.

This takes courage to trust people. Courage to be seen as we are. Courage to explore the dark spaces of our souls, places we often keep hidden even from ourselves. It was refreshing to talk about this kind of courage on April 11, 2016 with Pastor Dawn Damon and Wanda Sanchez on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio. I encourage you to tune in and listen to the conversation.

I’d also love to have you share a time when you acted courageously. What fear did you have to face?

 

 

 

 

 

Gossip and Speculation: The Silent Seduction

ConversationAndBubbles“You won’t wear that ring in public, will you?” My mother examined the three modest diamonds set into the new antique-style ring I’d just picked up from the jeweler.

“Why wouldn’t I wear it?” I was surprised by her question. “The stones were gifts from people I love, and it didn’t cost me much to have them set. I can hardly believe I own something so beautiful.”

Dan and I lived on a Christian school administrator’s salary. Groceries, a mortgage, and bills would always beat out jewelry. I’d saved for years to pay to have the gifted diamonds set.

“People know you can’t afford a ring like that. What are they going to think?”

I hoped they’d think I was blessed to own a beautiful ring. I can still remember my outrage at my mother’s question.

But looking back, I understand that my outrage was youthful naivete.As humans with a fallen, sinful nature, we struggle with pride.

One facet of our struggle with pride is judging others for things we know nothing about. 

You know, a family member goes on a cruise that we can’t afford, and we automatically assume they’re spending big bucks (which we judge to be “bad”). We swell with a rush of pride that we don’t spend our money in such frivolous ways and may even drop an offhanded comment or two to a few people about “So-and-So” being off on “another one of their high-priced vacations again.”

You know. Not REAL gossip. Just enough of an insidious dig to cause someone to question their character.

At the heart of gossip lies a killer’s heart: “Did you hear…” Gouge out a little piece of someone’s pride, their reputation, their dignity, their honor.

One.

Little piece.

Of gossip.

At a time.

I became angry the day my mother questioned me about my beautiful ring because I didn’t understand a central truth about my heart.

Like everyone, I sometimes use my tongue to decimate those I claim to love.

I gossip because I put myself first.

I gossip because I want to be noticed.

I gossip because I want to always be right.

I gossip because I don’t love you enough to treat you the way I want to be treated.

I gossip because I’m willing to push you into the mud to make myself feel better than you.

I speculate because pride pushes me to believe the worst about you so I can feel better about myself.

I speculate because it inflates my skewed sense of self-righteousness.

Gossip and speculation are driven by pride–our sinful desire to makes ourselves feel and look better than other people. 

Romans 1:29-30 states God’s opinion of gossip pretty clearly: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.”

It’s pretty clear that God hates proud, self-motivated language.

Romans 1:29-30 shows us that He ranks it right up there beside murder and depravity. Perhaps this is because gossip is the first to mar God’s creation.Satan introduced gossip into the world shortly after Adam and Eve were created. He distorted the truth about God and spread rumors when he told Adam and Eve that God had lied to them. He made them question God’s motives and doubt God’s love. Satan’s twisted words introduced literal and spiritual death into the world. (Gen. 2:16-17)

When Eve repeated God’s words a chapter later, she added the phrase, “lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Satan’s rumor had already begun to seep into her thoughts and erode her opinion about God. She was beginning to believe God was unfair.

Beginning to believe…in other words, she was beginning to believe that lies were truth. To the point that she didn’t even recognize the fact that she had twisted God’s words.

And we, just like Eve, tend to believe anything we repeat enough times.

Our words carry the power of life and death. But we typically speak without evaluating our true motives. 

This is because we seldom think before we speak. Philippians 4:8 should serve as our guide for both our thoughts and our speech:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think [and speak] about these things.

Overcoming Gossip

Gossip is one of Satan’s most powerful spiritual weapons. To overcome gossip, we must fight using spiritual weapons through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first step is to understand that Satan’s goal is to justify your actions, to accuse others, and to judge. Satan wants you to look for every opportunity to tell yourself that you’re better than “those people.” Gossip and speculation are two of his most powerful tools.

Of course, God’s agenda is for you to repent of prideful actions, not judge, not accuse, and not justify gossip or idle talk about others. Before repeating anything about anyone, ask yourself if you have the facts. Then ask yourself if you could repeat the information in the presence of the person involved and if they would allow you to pass it on. Finally, ask yourself if repeating the information is helpful or potentially hurtful.

Our ultimate goal as Christians is to love others as we desire to be loved. If we remember to speak of others as we would like to be spoken about, we will have no question about what to say and when to say it.

For more information on gossip, listen to the podcast on “Brain Gossip” featuring Pastor Dawn Damon and author Wanda Sanchez. You may also want to read a more in-depth explanation of self-talk from a biblical perspective in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Oh, and by the way, I’m still wearing my favorite diamond ring.

 

What about you? Have you been hurt by gossip? How did it affect your life?