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.

Love Letters from the Edge Featured on WZZM Take Five

LoveLettersCover

 

Tomorrow, July 21, I will be talking about Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life on WZZM TV’s Take Five. The show airs from 9-10am ET.

Be sure to ask friends, educators, medical professionals, ministry workers, those who work in the justice system,and employers to listen in for valuable information on post-traumatic stress disorder and the toll it takes on those who have experienced trauma in its many forms.

PTSD AWARENESS: PTSD in the Pew

Photo Credit: photographyblog.dallasnews,com

Photo Credit: photographyblog.dallasnews,com

Most people associate PTSD with veterans returning from war. They don’t see PTSD as an issue that affects babies, children, teenagers, young adults, professionals, in fact, anyone of any age, background, race, or from any demographic region can be affected by PTSD.

PTSD is far more common than we think.

If you attend a rural church of 100 people, at least 5 adults and adolescents in your small congregation suffer from PTSD. If you attend a church of 1,000 in an urban area like Atlanta or Chicago, approximately 250 adults and adolescents in your congregation are struggling with PTSD.

According to ptsd.ne.gov, approximately 4% of U.S. adults and 5% of adolescents have PTSD in the course of a year. This statistic does not take into account younger children who also often suffer from PTSD, and much higher percentages in larger cities.

Unfortunately, rates of PTSD in urban areas are higher than for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq (from 11-20%).

PTSD is primarily a war-related condition, right? Wrong. 

 

The most common cause of PTSD among the general population is car accidents. In fact, up to 30% of people who experience car accidents will go on to develop symptoms of PTSD. 

PTSD can be caused by any event that causes paralyzing fear and overwhelms the brain’s ability to cope. PTSD can be caused by

  • natural disasters
  • technological disasters
  • pre-birth child loss
  • adoption (the child’s or mother’s experience)
  • childbirth
  • preverbal childhood medical trauma
  • childhood medical trauma
  • adult medical trauma
  • neglect and abandonment
  • domestic violence
  • sexual abuse
  • secondary trauma (first responders, social workers, spouses)
  • caregiving
  • grief
  • bullying

PTSD is a brain illness rooted in chemical and biological causes that typically require trauma-specific treatment.

Unfortunately, the church often treats mental illness as a spiritual problem. However the brain is an organ, and its function is rooted in the same created biological and chemical processes as the rest of our organs. Diabetics take insulin and other medications for their diabetes. People go for physical therapy for rehabilitation following strokes and brain injuries. Those living with PTSD also require therapy and rehabilitation. That need does not connote spiritual weakness. Unfortunately, “guilting” and counsel people away from needed PTSD treatment is too often the position of the church.

People who suffer from PTSD need compassion, patience, understanding from the church, and friends willing to listen.

Christians who suffer from PTSD feel guilty.

They feel unfixable.

They feel alienated.

They often suffer with symptoms like depression, addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, extreme anxiety, hyper vigilance, and other coping mechanisms that have helped them navigate life. These coping mechanisms begin to fail as the years pass.

People with PTSD find it enormously difficult to move past their PTSD symptoms unless they find effective trauma treatment, which the church often minimalizes or even demeans.

The church needs to provide greater understanding of and resources for those with mental illnesses like PTSD.

Mental illness is brain illness and deserves focus in the church as a stewardship issue–stewardship of body, soul, and spirit.

 

Additional information is available in our FREE ebook, “The Truth about Trauma,” which can be downloaded from the pages of this blog.

For more information and to inquire about training your church on biblical foundations in mental illness, contact Kristen Kansiewicz, author of “On Edge: Mental Illness in the Christian Context.” 

 

Love Letters from the Edge Nominated for Selah Award

Photo Credit: AltonGansky.typepad

Photo Credit: AltonGansky.typepad

Co-author Wanda Sanchez and I were delighted to learn that Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life is one of three books nominated for a Selah Award in the General Nonfiction category.

The Selah Awards, which are awarded annually at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, are awarded to books within Christian publishing that are considered excellent within their genre.

The Selah Awards represent 14 genres, 29 publishing houses, and hundreds of authors. The nominees are listed below:

The 2015 Selah Awards Finalists
Listed in Alphabetical Order According to Book Title

Children’s
Dare U 2 Open This Book by Carol McAdams Moore (Zonderkidz)
Just Sayin’ by Carol McAdams Moore (Zonderkidz)
Our Daily Bread for Kids by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley (Discovery House Publishers)

Children’s Picture Books
God is Always With You by Michelle Medlock Adams (Candy Cane Press)
If Jesus Walked Beside Me by Jill Roman Lord (Candy Cane Press)
What is Thanksgiving by Michelle Medlock Adams (Candy Cane Press)

Middle Grade Novels
Bash and the Chicken Coop Caper by Burton W. Cole (B&H Kids)
Johanna’s Journey by Cindy Murray Hamblen (Ambassador International)
Speak No Evil by Mary L. Hamilton (HopeSprings Books)
Fiction: Contemporary Romance
One More Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong (Revell)
Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey (Abingdon Press)
The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell)

Fiction: First Novel
Mercy’s Rain by Cindy K. Sproles (Kregel Publications)
Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House Publications)
The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance (Worthy Publishing)

Fiction: Historical
Soul Painter by Cara Luecht (WhiteFire Publishing)
The Hatmaker’s Heart by Carla Stewart (FaithWords)
What Follows After by Dan Walsh (Revell)

Fiction: Historical Romance
Lightning on a Quiet Night by Donn Taylor (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
Love Comes Home by Ann H. Gabhart (Revell)
The Pelican Bride by Beth White (Revell)

Fiction: Mystery & Suspense (Third Place Tie)
A Cry From the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson)
Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard (Revell)
No One to Trust by Lynette Eason (Revell)
Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason (Revell)

Fiction: Novella
A Shenandoah Christmas by Lisa Belcastro (Washashore Publishing)
One Holy Night by Elizabeth Ludwig (Barbour Publishing)
The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels (Hearts Overcoming Press)

Fiction: Speculative
Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock (Heritage Beacon Fiction)
Shenandoah Dreams by Lisa Belcastro (OakTara)
Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Revell)

Fiction: Women’s Contemporary
Just 18 Summers by Michelle Cox & Rene Gutteridge (Tyndale House Publishers)
The Revealing by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell)
The Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers (Howard Books)

Nonfiction: Christian Living
For the Love of Horses by Amber H. Massey (Harvest House Publishers)
Not Who I Imagined by Margot Starbuck (Baker Books)
Praying Through Hard Times by Linda Evans Shepherd (Revell)

Nonfiction: General
Heart Wide Open by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson (Waterbrook Press)
Love Letters From the Edge by Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez (Kregel Publications)
Renew Your Hope! By Pamela Christian (Protocol, Ltd.)

Nonfiction: Memoir
Bethany’s Calendar by Elaine Marie Cooper (CrossRiver Media)
Dead 13 Times by Cam Tribolet (Whitaker House)
Out of the Dust by Avis Goodhart with Marti Pieper (Aneko Press)

Judging will take place Wednesday, May 20th.

Our sincere thanks to the Selah Award contest organizers and sponsors for the honor of this nomination. It’s our desire that the hopeless find hope through Love Letters from the Edge. We wrote this book to help those who’ve been wounded and broken by life to hear God’s words of love poured out specifically for them.

Four Ways the Church Can Teach Compassion for Suffering

  • tear-stained-faceAccording to the CDC, as of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions.
  • According to the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI), more than 26% or one in four adults over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. 
  • According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), one out of every six American women has been the victim of a completed or attempted rape in her lifetime and 3% of men.
  • According to a survey by the National Institutes of Justice, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and in 1992 the AMA reported that as many as one in three women will be assaulted by a domestic partner in her lifetime. 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
  • Almost ten percent of the general population is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder–not just returning vets. And the causes of PTSD can be any terrifying experience that overwhelms the brain. Now do the math–how many people does that represent in YOUR church congregation who may be suffering in silence?

With these realities in mind, our churches must be mindful of the suffering of those sitting in our pews. Every form of suffering we read about and see on the news is affecting our churches and homes as Christians.

Our kids our suffering.

Our marriages our suffering.

As men and women, we are often silently suffering.

And too many churches are preaching a theology that doesn’t allow us to talk openly about hurt, pain, and the realities of our lives. We’re taught to be “happy all the time”? But why?

We’re afraid we’ll give God or Jesus a bad rap. So we teach a shallow, false view of Christianity.

But Jesus was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” Scripture is filled with tough questions, lament, frustrated believers challenging God, and deep, authentic grief and sorrow.

So how can the church do a better job of teaching compassion?

1. Let us learn from authentic struggle. I’m grateful for my church, where most sermons are followed by an “application” time where members (as well as pastors and leaders) talk openly about how they’ve struggled through issues as wide-ranging as marital discord, battles with porn or other addictions, forgiveness, identity struggles, or other tough issues. We immediately recognize that, while truth is clearly taught in Scripture, church is a place where everyone is in the battle together.

2. Teach the importance and integration of mental and physical health. Too many Christians falsely believe that addressing health issues stops at the neck. The brain is an organ that operates under the same created biochemical principles as the rest of the body. Mental illness is real and needs to be respected. We need to stop shaming Christians for taking medications and seeking medical solutions. Of COURSE God is our healer–he’s my healer just as much when I go to a non believing cardiologist for medication and surgery as when I take a needed anti-depressant for chemical imbalance.

3. Make compassion ministries a priority. Teach about grief and suffering from the pulpit. Offer care groups. Hire a parish nurse. Create a health ministry or partner with other churches that are already doing these things. Yes, partner with OTHER churches and promote their health ministries to your congregation if you’re unable to create one yourself. Partner with inner city ministries to widen your perspective on compassion and community ministry.

4. Create a culture of transparency, accountability, and humility that flows from the top down. Compassion will seldom flow through a local body of believers if it is not modeled first by leadership. As a speaker and consultant, I am often horrified by the “rock star” attitude conveyed by some pastors. Look for pastors who speak openly about their struggles and create safe places for people to seek healing, comfort, and growth. Churches should be safe havens for the hurting.

What about YOU? How has the church ministered compassion to you in your suffering?

Survival Tips to Help De-Traumatize Your Holiday

Photo Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Photo Credit: commonswikimedia.org

The holidays are often dreaded by those who’ve experienced trauma, and family and friends may struggle to understand why. But in order to understand the “why,” it helps to understand the story behind trauma symptoms.”Lynn” was frequently raped as a child by an older cousin at family reunions and holiday gatherings. Parents and adults were often just a few feet away from the closet where “Bert” repeatedly abused her, with threats that if she didn’t comply, he’d target her younger brother.

  • As a child, “Ellen” was trafficked by her mother on her birthday. For years just the thought of Ellen’s birthday made her suicidal. Weeks before the date, she began dissociating to escape intrusive memories and struggling not to vomit when well-intentioned friends asked about how she planned to celebrate.
  • Joe, an Army veteran, spent Christmas watching children in war-born Afghanistan lose all they in raids on their villages. Joe also witnessed the deaths of several of his military buddies. Weeks before December, he begins re-experiencing war-time memories and struggles with paralyzing survivor guilt.
  • For most of his childhood years, Josh endured his father’s abusive, drunken rages on Christmas and other holidays. His father’s outbursts often occurred at once-a-year-family gatherings, where Josh’s aunts and uncles were often forced to intervene. Christmas is a day that carries memories of violence, fear, and shame that Josh wishes he could erase forever from his memory.

The holidays and other life celebrations are especially painful
for trauma survivors who may experience

  • Outsideness. The holidays emphasize the fact that trauma survivors do not experience life as other people do. Trauma has robbed them of the “normal” life everyone else seems to enjoy. Other people seem happy, yet their emotions are out of control and they often find themselves on the verge of desperation.
  • Survivor guilt. The holidays can elevate grief for lost friends and loved ones.
  • Rage. A common symptom of PTSD is anger and rage. Rage serves a useful purpose as a survival response during was or sexual assault, but it loses its purpose as a coping mechanism after the event. However, people with PTSD become “stuck” in their trauma or traumas because the event has been processed primarily on only one side of the brain.
  • Agitation in crowds. Trauma survivors experience anxiety and agitation in crowds. The stimulation of noise and movement tells their brain to scan for danger and a means of escape. Their brain slips into hyper vigilant mode as a means of protection, making it nearly impossible for them to relax or enjoy a simple conversation.

So what’s the solution?
How can trauma survivors handle stress-filled holidays?

  1. Know your triggers and get creative. Are big crowds tough for you? Then consider asking a friend to video your child’s recital or church drama so you can watch it at home in private. Make the event a family celebration you can view together. Can’t manage the mall without a meltdown? Shop online or ask a friend to do it for you.
  2. Pre-plan your coping strategies. Give yourself permission to leave events early. Think through how you’ll manage stressful scenarios and how you’ll recognize when it’s time to head home. If you struggle with alcohol or food addiction, plan how you’ll eat in moderation or handle the temptation to drink.
  3. Look for alternative ways to celebrate. Let’s face it, family gatherings can be tough for anybody under any conditions. Give yourself permission to Skype in to the celebration. Or set time limits to get in and out within an hour. Or suggest that you stop by to contribute in a particular way (bring dessert or appetizers) that allows you to be present and then make a gracious exit.
  4. Create new rituals that give you a sense of significance and purpose. Perhaps you don’t want to decorate this year–consider, instead, how you might help with a celebration at a nursing home, homeless shelter, or a hospitalized family separated by illness (call your local children’s hospital for ideas).
  5. Focus on people in need. One of the best ways to create significance from your loss is by investing in someone else. Work with homeless vets. Spend time with trafficked or battered women or those who are living in shelters in your community. The possibilities are limitless.
  6. Create a support network. Line up your best advocates and accountability partners to help you walk through tough events and even hang out with you. Be sure you’ve got someone on your list that you feel free to call 24/7.
    Focus on positive self-talk. Those of us who struggle with PTSD tend to default to black-and-white thinking. The truth is that things don’t “always” have to be the way they’ve been in the past. You can change, and you have the power to make that change positive.
  7. Engage in behaviors that build resilience. Research shows that people build resilience as they 1) pursue an active coping style of facing their fears, managing their emotions, and problem-solving; 2) engage in physical exercise; 3) cultivate a positive outlook; 4) develop and live by meaningful principles; 5) seek social support; and 6) look for good in bad situations.

Trauma changes us. Things will never be the same. But life can be good…even great as we press forward toward growth and resilience.

How do you cope with holiday stress?

What’s worked for you in the past? What have you learned that could be helpful to others?

Your Story: The Power to Set the World Ablaze

Photo Credit: anglicansablaze.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: anglicansablaze.blogspot.com

I was 19 years old the night a serial rapist crawled through my parents’ kitchen window and attacked me in my bed.

The perpetrator–a man named James–had raped more than forty women and been prosecuted seven times.

Each time, he was freed to rape again.

And again.

And again.

My parents were shocked. Unthinkable things like this didn’t happen in their world–certainly not to their children. My father instructed me not to talk about what had happened. He perceived my assault as shameful. Talking about it was simply beyond his reach.

My dad had Asberger’s (although I didn’t know it at the time). God was good–all the time (which he is). But to Dad, acknowledging anger, grief, questions, and doubt was an abandonment of faith, not an acknowledgment that God is there for us in our worst moments. Later, as my father grew into his senior years, he forgot my assault ever happened.

I never forgot. My memories had taken me hostage.

I struggled for two years–haunted by memories, flashbacks, fear, depression. The churches I attended viewed depression as either a sin or a mark of spiritual weakness. No one knew about trauma or PTSD. And Christians were overtly and subtly fed the message that they were supposed to be “in-right, out-right, up-right, down-right happy all the time.”

 

So I denied my anger and questions–for a while. Until I decided that I was only fooling myself. If God really was love, he had to care about me in the most painful times of my life. God must care about my anger and my questions and my

doubts–perhaps more than anything about me.

In my questions, I discover who I believe God really is and face my self-deceptions.

And like the psalmists who expressed pain and questions and doubt, God wants me to come to him in my suffering.

In his book To Be Told, Dan Allender tells us, “So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze.”

Two years after my assault, God brought me face-to-face with my bitter, unforgiving heart toward the man who’d assaulted me and so many other women. God taught me what it meant to forgive our worst enemies and those who despitefully use us. God showed me my own murderous heart and that the ground is truly level at the foot of the cross.

As I discovered forgiveness and gratitude, I was overwhelmed with the desire to tell my story.

Not because my story is important–but because we are all connected at the soul level through our stories. When we see a glimpse of ourselves in someone else’s story, we begin to believe that their healing, their grace, their miracle is also possible for us.

We have the power to set the world ablaze as we share our stories of hope and healing.

And as we give to others, we receive–healing, renewal, and actual rewiring in our brains. “Stuck” parts of our stories are healed through the power of truth. They become integrated and appropriately filed into memory. And we experience the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:22)

Your life is a flickering flame…waiting to ignite hope in others. Tell your story.

Whose story has inspired your life? In what ways have they influenced you?