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.

Dealing with Depression

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez

 

One of the common side effects of multiple sclerosis is depression. Not long after my most recent relapse, I recognized symptoms of depression and discussed appropriate treatment with my family and my doctor. Read more about MS and depression HERE.

On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

There are different types of depression, and they can be linked to different causes. Symptoms can range from minor (but still disabling) through to very severe. Symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of loss, disillusionment, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping,

My first experience with depression was following the birth of my first child. I called these the “years of the brown robe” because I pretty much never got dressed unless I was going to church because “good” Christians can’t be depressed or shopping for groceries–a necessity of life. This depression was profoundly deep and lasted several years.

Looking back, I believe that during these years I experienced depression related to the trauma of a sexual assault when I was nineteen years old. I felt enormous guilt for not being a “good mother” to my children or a “good wife” to my husband. Unlike the church I attend now, the church I went to during this time in my life didn’t talk about how the Bible related to practical issues like mental and physical health. I believed I was supposed to be in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right happy all the time.” To learn more, read the article “How Trauma Can Lead to Depression.” 

My second period of depression occurred approximately five years later. It seemed to be linked to a medication I was taking for migraines. Once I stopped taking the medication, the depression disappeared.

The depression I’ve experienced with my MS has seemed persistent yet more manageable that my two previously episodes of depression. I’ve found several key factors to be helpful in beating the blues:

  1. Talk to your doctor about whether or not medication may be right for you. Chemicals and hormones in your body may be burnt out and need a re-boot to recover. Anti-depressants are a tool to help you make better choices–they do not make choices for you. There is no shame in taking medicine that addresses biological illnesses. Your brain functions chemically and sometime may need medicine in the same way your pancreas and heart need medicine.
  2. Try to get out into nature at least a little every day. I have trouble walking, but I walk to the mailbox. I pull a few weeds. I’m not supposed to be in the sun or in heat, so I spend my time outside in the morning. Read a book in the park. Take your lunch break outside. Drive to the beach, a lake or river. The beauty of flowers, the scent of the grass, the sound of birds lifts our spirits. God wired us this way.
  3. Do something to lift someone else’s spirits. Send a card. Pay for someone’s lunch. Send an anonymous gift. Write a letter of appreciation. Tell someone how beautiful they are. Thank a police officer, fireman, teacher, pastor, nurse, doctor, social worker, or other people helper.
  4. Remind yourself who God says you are. Beautiful. Chosen. Flawless. Forgiven. Beloved. His child. Depression often produces negative self-talk. Be committed to mindfulness in the battle against stinkin’ thinking–about yourself, others, your circumstances, your future, even about who God is and His role in your life.

What about you? Have you or someone you love struggled with depression? How have you dealt with it? Who or what has helped you most?

Music for the Soul, Healing for the Heart

 Music

I’m so excited…

A phenomenal new book is releasing May 11th–a book written by one of my best and most respected friends, Steve Siler, founder and director of MusicfortheSoul.org.

I don’t want to brag, but I just received my copy of Music for the Soul, Healing for the Heart. While the book chronicles the miraculous story of Steve’s Dove Award-winning songwriting journey that ultimately culminated in his founding MusicfortheSoul.org, the book is much, much more.

Music for the Soul, Healing for the Heart captures the captivating, healing, God-inspired power of music to reclaim and transform lives. 

Using the evocative vehicle of sstory, this book gives a glimpse into the healing power of music. MusicfortheSoulMusic for the Soul, Healing for the Heart relates the true-life events of how God called Steve from among West Coast’s musical elite to Nashville’s gospel and contemporary Christian music scene, where Steve would win the highest awards in Christian songwriting. But he would leave that world to follow his passion and create a ministry that focuses on soul-healing music that binds the broken and hopeless.

Music for the Soul, Healing for the Heart tells how God led Steve on a journey through pop music and culture, to contemporary Christian music, then to ministry-focused music that focuses solely on songs crafted to help the broken heal. Steve’s songs are written for parents of special needs children, for those who have lost their homes to natural disasters, for those who have been sexually abused, for those who have been trafficked, for those who have experienced cancer, for caregivers, for military and law enforcement officers, for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, for those who have lost children to the pain of abortion.

Music for the Soul, Healing for the Heart is not a book simply about music or ministry. It is a book about broken people, hope, and healing.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt broken, known or loved anyone who has felt broken, or who works with broken people. I recommend this book to those who love music, to those who love musicians, and to those who want to better understand the God-given power of music to restore hearts. I recommend this book to anyone who has felt called to follow God’s passion for their life and followed that call in spite of the risk. And I recommend this book to those looking for well-written inspirational, God-honoring reading.

Shelly Beach

Multiple award-winning author, speaker, consultant
ShellyBeachonline.com
PTSDPerspectives.org

Childhood Trauma and the Church

BackToSchoolBlues

I’ve done a fair amount of research over the past few years on Kaiser Permanente’s ACE Study. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.

More than 17,000 Kaiser Permanente employees volunteered to undergo a comprehensive physical examination to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction.

Ten categories were determined to be adverse childhood experiences. Five are personal:

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect

Five are related to other family members:

  • A parent who’s an alcoholic
  • A mother who’s a victim of domestic violence
  • One or no parent in the home (divorce, death, abandonment)
  • A parent who’s incarcerated
  • A family member with mental illness

The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. It is critical to understand how some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.

More importantly, the ACE Study provides insight about why so many people are physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken in our churches and communities. 

According to Kaiser’s findings, a stunning link exists between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. The study’s researchers came up with an ACE score to explain a person’s risk for chronic disease. Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood toxic stress. You get one point for each type of trauma you’ve experienced. The higher your ACE score, the higher your risk of health and social problems. For instance,

  • For women, the risk of need for antidepressants by the age of 50 increases to 100%.
  • With an ACE score of 4, the risk of COPD in adulthood increases by almost 20%.
  • With an ACE score of 4, the risk of serious financial problems in adulthood increases by approximately 23%.
  • With an ACE score of 4, the risk of of teen pregnancy increases by 40%.
  • With an ACE score of 4 or more, the risk of being raped later in life increases by more than 30%.

My best friend, a woman who has clung to her faith in God since childhood, scores 10 out of 10. Social workers who have met her and know her story call her a “miracle” and consider it beyond remarkable that she has lived into her fifties.

It’s time for the church to recognize the value, dignity, and role of the broken and hurting in our midst.

Jesus came for the lost and hurting, not so we could minister to one another.  Our programming should reflect integrate the needs of families with special needs children, those with mental and physical illness, caregiving ministries, and knowledge of community resources. Our pews are filled with adults, young people, and children, who are suffering from domestic violence, abuse, hunger and neglect, mental and physical illness, caregiver fatigue, pornography addiction, eating disorders, addictions, and many other wounds and are searching for help and hope.

I, for one, am enormously grateful for a church that ministers to needs such as these, and provides counseling and practical support for those in need. Churches also need to equip each of us to step into roles of loving service as God leads.

For practical resources for the hurting, visit MusicfortheSoul.org.

How do you think the church can better meet the needs of those who have been influenced the the categories of the ACE Study?

Porn, Pastors, and Cultural Needs in the Church

med-1044-depressionAccording to a report filed by Mira Oberman for Yahoo News on September 11, 2015, a U.S. pastor committed suicide six days after his name was exposed by hackers of the Ashley Madison website.

Unfortunately, this tragic news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who understands the realities of an imperfect church.

Reverend Jonathan Pearson, Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church and co-creator of MillennialLeader.com,  states:

“Pornography is the most pervasive and destructive issue facing our generation today.”

We live in a society saturated with sensual images. These images have invaded our homes through print media such as newspapers, magazines, the Internet, cable TV, and  network TV. Advancements in technology have led to pornography being more accessible today than it has ever been. Porn can be accessed easily by any web enabled cell phone.

Recent surveys indicate that more than 50% of men and 25% of women within the church are addicted to Internet pornography. This includes, pastors, who are afraid to bring their secret into the light for fear of being fired from their positions or shamed as failures.

But churches need to be places where we can share our brokenness and find restoration, accountability, and healing.

1. People, including staff, should publicly talk about brokenness and how they found healing and restoration.

2. Pastors can create cultures of transparency by talking about their own lives.

3. Pastors should preach about sex and sexually related topics.

4. The church should equip parents to talk to their kids about sex and how to teach their kids about sex. This goes far beyond the “sex talk” and should begin before kids hit ten. Sex education today must include culturally relevant topics like sexual identity in an era of sexual confusion.

5. Pastors should encourage accountability and use of Internet filters, such as Covenant Eyes.

6. Pastors should encourage counseling, and whenever possible, include qualified Christian counselors a part of church staff.

7. The church should encourage spouses to share passwords to all computers, tablets, phones, etc.

For seven steps on how to integrate teaching on sex in your church, CLICK HERE.

Tributes to John Gibson poured in from students and faculty who remembered him as a kind, generous man who repaired students’ vehicles in his spare time.

“John was a popular member of our the college faculty,” seminary president Chuck Kelley said in an obituary posted on the school’s blog.

“He was particularly known for his acts of kindness to the seminary family. He was the quintessential good neighbor.”

Into the Light Miistries offers resources, including seminars and  for those within the church who are struggling with porn addiction. For more information contact info@intothelightministries.net.

MusicForTheSoul.org also offers resources such as She’s Somebody’s Daughter, a music video that addresses the topic of pornography. Watch a clip HERE.

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.”