Righteous are you, O LORD,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
(Jeremiah 12:1-2 ESV)
There are souls that, crablike, crawl continually toward darkness, going backward in life rather than advancing, using their experience to increase their deformity, growing continually worse, and becoming steeped more and more thoroughly in an intensifying viciousness. — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
As survivors of abuse, and parents who must share access of our children with our abusers, it is critically important to talk to them about protecting themselves from sexual abuse. Why? Because according to research, studies indicate that a batterer is about four to six times more likely than a non-batterer to sexually abuse his children (see Lundy Bancroft). So, it is critical that we talk to our children about good touch and bad touch and about protecting themselves.
When you talk to your kids about protective behaviors (learning to keep themselves safe from sexual perpetrators), I think it’s a good thing to use the proper names for their body parts. Kids can get confused about what parts are private if they don’t know the real names of the body parts, and perpetrators can use the fact that the kids don’t know the real names, to trick and confuse them and gain access.
Teach your kids where their private parts are and that they are private. Some people say anywhere that a swimsuit covers. Teach them that no one should look at or touch those parts (with their hand, mouth or their own private parts, or with any object) and that no one should touch their private parts on any part of your child’s body, or ask the child to touch the other person’s private parts in any way. The only people who can touch a child’s private parts are doctors and nurses and only for medical reasons.
I also think it’s important to clarify that not even parents can touch in those places, and that sometimes people will try to trick kids into thinking it’s a special thing or a special way for dads and daughters/sons, or mothers and daughters/sons, to show love to each other, but that that is a trick and a lie.
Other tricks perpetrators use to gain access to kids
The Apple Of My Eye Trick
The first trick is named after Laura Ahearn’s “The Apple Of My Eye” sexual abuse prevention program. This trick is at the top on her list for the most insidious of all because predators use the same innocent vulnerability we strive to protect in our children for purposes of methodically gaining their trust by giving special attention to them so they can eventually sexually abuse them. Children seek love, attention and affection and sexual predators use this vulnerability to “seduce” a child the same way they would attempt to seduce an adult.
Accidental Touching Trick
Children are often unaware that an accidental touching may be intentional, or may be an offender making touch seem innocous or ‘normal’ so they can attempt to touch closer to genitalia the next time.
Assistance Lure Trick
An offender senses a role he might play by assisting a family with children. His assistance might be needed for babysitting or for driving a child to activities. Watch for those who are more interested in your child than you; there is a reason.
Many of us have taught our children to respect authority without realizing that individuals who target our children take advantage of their position such as a teacher, coach, religious or club leader or even parent.
Offenders may continually talk to children about sex or use pornography to demonstrate sexual acts. They may arouse a child’s curiosity by emailing or leaving sexual material and aids around where they may see them.
Drug & Alcohol Trick
Drugs or alcohol can be used to incapacitate a child making them highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Crisis can be confusing for young children and offenders count on that so they construct an emergency to lure children.
Older children may bribe a younger child (or same age) by saying that they will not be their friend anymore unless they participate in a sexual act. A parent may tell their child that they will not love them anymore or that the child must not love the parent if they don’t want to do it.
Body-contact games such as wrestling or tickling are played where touching genitalia is part of the rules or part of the ‘normal’ behaviour.
Hero Trick / Special Privileges Trick
(Coach/Teacher/Parent/Person In A Position Of Authority)
Children are often impressed with those individuals they look up to such as those in a position of authority like a coach, teacher, parent, older cousin. They may endure abuse to maintain a relationship where they are receiving special privileges for fear of losing those privileges
Offender is continually attempting to take a child out alone for special trips or outings and insists that no one else attend.
Children may be threatened into cooperation and further silenced. Once the abuse has taken place, they threaten to expose the child either to their other parent or to their friends. The offender may threaten the abused child into recruiting other children.
Teach children to tell safe adults
Some secrets should not be kept secret
There is nothing so bad that you can’t talk with someone about it.
Teach children that if something happens which makes them feel unsafe, they should tell a trusted adult or adults, and they should keep on telling until something is done about it, so they no longer feel unsafe. Teach them there is nothing so bad that you can’t talk with someone about it — that would be a good sign to put on the fridge.
Some of the literature on this topic assumes that both parents are safe, and thus encourages the kids to tell both of their parents if someone has tried to touch them inappropriately; but what if the perpetrator IS one of their parents? I suggest you tell the kids to tell someone they trust, someone who they feel safe with, instead of simply saying that they should tell their parents.
You could talk about who safe people are for them and even help them make a list of those people who they could tell if they felt unsafe. Let them know it’s ok for them to tell anyone on their list, but that they need to tell someone they trust. An idea for making the list is to get the child to draw an outline around their hand and on the drawing the child then labels each finger with the name of a different grown-up they could tell (another item for the fridge?)
Talk to your kids about secrets, because perpetrators often use these as a way of keeping kids from discussing what has happened to them. There are good and bad secrets and kids can get confused as to which is which.
If someone asks you to keep a secret and says you must keep it secret otherwise he or she will get in trouble, or will get angry, or someone else might get hurt, and the person says you must never ever tell anyone else, that is not right. Some secrets should not be kept secret. Tell your child “If you feel unsafe or yucky about anything and someone says you should keep it a secret, you do not have to keep that secret. Some secrets should not be kept secret.”
On the other hand, good secrets are ok; you know they’re okay because you only keep them for a little while and then tell the person, to surprise them (like a suprise party) and it’s always about good things, not bad things or things that make the child feel bad. No one gets hurt with good secrets. When it’s a good secret, no one lives in fear because of it.
The most important thing is to talk to your children about this. Help them protect themselves as best you can. And with that, I will leave you with three more lists that I believe are critical for protective parents to know:
Common things abusers say, to keep children from telling about the abuse
“If you tell, I will get in trouble and so will you.”
“If you tell, I will hurt/kill your loved one or pet.”
“If you tell, no one will understand and we will both get in trouble.”
“If you tell, I will kill/hurt you.”
“If you don’t tell, I will get you xyz.”
“Daddys and daughters show love this way and it is a secret just for us.”
“If you tell anyone, they will blame you.”
“If you tell, I will say it is your fault.”
“No one will believe you.”
“If you tell, I will tell them you are lying.”
“Your mom/dad will be SO angry with you if she/he finds out.”
“Mommy/Daddy is not here. She/He isn’t part of our family, so we don’t have to tell her/him.”
“This is normal. I am teaching you how to be a woman/man.”
Signs that your child has been or is being sexually abused
- A fear of certain places, people, or activities, especially being alone with certain people
- Reporting feeling forced or coerced into giving affection
- Reluctance to undress
- Disturbed sleep/frequent nightmares
- Sudden mood swings, withdrawal, rage, fear, anxiety, anger
- Excessive crying
- Avoids touch
- Loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing
- Drastic change in school performance
- Drawing with bizarre themes
- Sexually acting out on younger children
- Sexual behavior or knowledge beyond their years
- Has new words for private body parts
- Reverting back to outgrown behavior (bedwetting and thumb sucking)
- Suicide attempts
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Itching or pain in the genital areas
- Excessive bladder infections
- Excessive urinary tract infections
- Excessive yeast infections
- Bleeding or trauma in oral, genital or anal areas
- Swollen or red cervix, vulva, perineum
- Sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy or AIDS
Red flags to look for in identifying perpetrators
Red Flag 1 – Someone who wants to spend more time with your child than you.
Red Flag 2 – Someone who manages to get time alone with, or attempts to be alone with your child or other children
Red Flag 3 – Someone who insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling or holding a child, even when a child doesn’t want this affection
Red Flag 4 – Someone who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child or teen and asks either the parents or the child sexually-oriented questions.
Red Flag 5 – Someone who relates extremely well to children and spends most of his/her spare time with them and has little interest in spending time with individuals their own age
Red Flag 6 – Someone who has few or no boundaries and does not respect the limits of their role in their relationship with children.
Red Flag 7 – Someone who regularly offers to babysit, help-out or takes children on day or overnight outings alone.
Red Flag 8 – Someone who buys expensive gifts or gives children money for no reason.
Red Flag 9 – Someone who frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom or bath tub while they are showering or changing.
Red Flag 10- Someone who inappropriately makes comments about the way your child looks.
When we are dealing with an abusive person, the solution is not to just “sit down and talk, work things out, communicate and understand one another better” NO! Because. . . the abusive man or woman has no intent at all to work things out. He or she knows nothing of compromising, of empathizing, of kindness. He only knows power and control and entitlement. Therefore, any such meeting with an abuser will only result in giving the abusive man another opportunity to abuse his victim.
This is a vital lesson to learn then in respect to dealing with an abusive person. Such a person, like Sanballat (Nehemiah 6:1-13), has only one purpose — to destroy, to discourage, to instill fear, to mock and rob his victim of any sense of self-worth and confidence. Sanballat wants to control, to own, to exercise power, to be as God to his victims. Therefore, it is not wise to enter into mediation with an abuser. It is not wise to enter into couples’ counseling with an abuser. Communication problems are NOT the problem. The abusive person’s mentality is the problem, and it is his problem alone.
[Pastor Crippen, “Dealing With the Abuser“, Sermon delivered October 24, 2010.]
As many of you know we highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s seven part series titled “Domestic Violence in Popular Culture” (here is a link to our post that provides a YouTube link to each part). So we were excited when we recently found another YouTube video by Lundy Bancroft that is also excellent. We have put it on our Resources page under Video and Audio, but this presentation is so good we wanted to bring it to the attention of our readers.
Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men — Lundy Bancroft video presentation. This presentation is longer than the DV in Popular Culture series, as it is about two hours in length — but it will be two hours well-spent. Note: if you wish to skip the introduction and just watch from where Lundy begins talking, go to youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=2m50s
In this presentation, Lundy discusses many aspects of abuse, abusive men, and victims. We have transcribed parts of it to give you an idea of what to expect. So consider this your personal ‘trailer’. Please quote & share the links, if you can safely do so.
- Can men who batter change? “Yes; the great majority can change. And the great majority don’t. And the reason they don’t is not because they can’t, but because they’ve figured out that they don’t really have to.” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=12m46
- Domestic abusers are little tyrants — they excercise totalitarianism in the home
“I came increasingly to perceive a home where there is a batterer as a little TYRANNY. A little chunk of totalitarianism. When we look closely at a home where there is a batterer [abuser] we find the key elements that are present in any oppressive system. . . somebody’s benefiting, and there are other people who are being silenced, who are not being heard. . . and there is always PROPAGANDA involved. . . ” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=15m35s
- Domestic abuse is not, at core, a psychologically driven problem.
“It is, at core, a CULTURALLY driven problem. Batterers, psychologically speaking — from the point of view of their mental health, how their emotional worlds work, how much they express their emotions, how much they suffer pain, how distorted their perceptions are — do not distinctly differ from non-battering men, on average.
“They are also not dramatically different from non-battering men in their skills. Researchers have measured their conflict resolution skills, their assertiveness skills, their communication skills, and they test about the same as non-battering men. . .
“When we look at their family of origin experiences, we do not find batterers having dramatically higher rates of having been abused as children. We DO find them having higher rates of come from homes where they saw their mother being abused. . . “What IS it about growing up in a home where you mother has been battered that specifically leads to so many boys growing up to become battering men? . . . The level of trauma is not significant. It is the extent to which the boy has taken on the batterer’s mentality. . . For example: Has the boy come to believe that his mother was to blame? Has the boy come to believe that females are inferior? Has he come to believe that women are endless full-time servants?” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=19m3s
- Abuse is culturally driven: it is learned and confirmed by socialisation.
“When I say domestic abuse of women is culturally driven, I don’t mean that it’s driven by a particular culture. I mean that batterers learn battering and come to use those behaviours, and believe in their right to use those behaviors, through their socialisation process, through becoming part of their culture. “Yes a lot of them learn abuse from dad or step-dad, although fewer than half come from homes where they mother was abused. [But] they learn it through all the ways that you learn about your culture: religious values that they are taught, the basic cultural values that they learn from their family and their culture, from television and video games, what men should be like, what women should be like, who has the right to make rules, who has the right to impose punishment, who has the obligation to obey.” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=34m
- Women who get targetted by abusers are no different from other women
“Women who are abused by their partners are just like other women. Research shows only one thing about the characteristics of women: if a woman is being abused, she tends to stay in the abuse longer if she grew up in a home where her mother was abused.” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=49m15s
- Abusers deliberately and consciously choose their tactics of abuse.
When two DV intervention workers, a male and a female, trial-workshopped a skit of a man abusing his wife to an audience of batterers in their Batterers Behavior Change Group, the men in the group got very excited and started telling the male worker what he should be doing to more effectively take control of the woman! In their excitement to give feedback on the skit, the men were forgetting to portray themselves as not responsible for their actions [“Hey, when I pushed her, I had no idea what came over me! I just snapped!”] In their enthusiasm to help the skit be more effective, the men dropped their masks and revealed how much they intentionally and consciously chose their tactics of abuse. youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=55m4s
- Abusers unjustly accuse their victims of ‘nagging’
“When the abuser says ‘she nags me’ he means ‘she presses me to meet my responsibilities.’ ” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=1h4m4s
- When abusers start reforming, they often backslide because they don’t like losing their privileges
“I have a lot of experience of working with abusers who looked like they were starting to change — and then backslide. When you ask them why, it comes out that they backslide because in some way their privileges were slipping.” youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=1h9m29s
At the end of the lecture (starting 1:26:55) there is a Q&A session in which Lundy responds to these questions:
1.What red flags should young women watch out for?
2. How do abusers tend to respond when their victims draw the line?
Lundy gives some examples an abuser’s responses to a victim when she says, “I’m not going to take this from you”, “I’m leaving you.”
3. Is there a psychological test that will distinguish a battering man from a non-battering man?
“There is no psychological test that exists that will distinguish a battering man from a non-battering man. Battering is not a psychological problem, it’s a problem of learned behavior, values and attitudes. Psychological testing by the Family Court in a domestic violence case is a MISTAKE: it is not going to tell you anything relevant about whether the allegations of abuse are true of false, or if they are true (because they are almost always true) are they really serious or less serious, how risky is this particular man for this child. What the court should be doing is appointing a good INVESTIGATOR to investigate the evidence, not a clinical mental health evaluator. It is completely inappropriate to use mental health evaluation to determine who should have custody, and yet it’s used that way all the time.”
4. What can I do to lessen the effects of my abuser on our child(ren)?
5. Theory versus Reality in the Family Courts.
Lundy talks about the situation in the USA; in his opinion the attitudes of GALs (Guardians at Litem) are often appalling. Lundy says we need a huge grassroots movement to protest this and to bring about social and legislative change so that protective parents are helped to protect their children, not treated like vermin for trying to protect their children. youtu.be/YmbrAWDft0s?t=1h42m16s
And finally, we want to make you aware of Lundy’s new book, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women involved with Angry and Controlling Men [affiliate link*]. Its release date was April 7, 2015. Lundy has this to say about his new book:
I decided to write a book of short pieces — daily readings — because abusive men create such tension and chaos that it could be difficult for women to find a chance to read a book in peace. Digesting long sections of text can be impossible for a woman when her partner demands constant catering and doesn’t allow her to ever focus on herself.
The new book contains 365 entires, each of which takes just five or ten minutes to read. Each day the reader focuses on just one principle and works with it mentally through the day. I offer her a short sentence that summarizes each piece, so that she can repeat those words to herself as she processes what she has read.
Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That will also be valuable for advocates, as it wends its way through the myriad issues that abused women have to take on in their daily lives.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Recently I had a refresher course in abuser tactics. Not in a classroom, but in real life. I need these reminders to help me continue to learn how to put into practice what I have learned about abuse. Necessary, because we all so easily revert to our old errors we used to be bound by when we were still “in the fog.” In this case my reminder was that I must not yield to accusations or to suggestions by the cowardly. We all have to learn to dig in our heels, stand firm, and say “no, I am right and you are wrong.” Many times distortions of our Christian faith that we have been confused by tell us that such an attitude evidences a lack of humility, that surely we are all sinners, that we need to look at ourselves carefully, that we need to acknowledge our own sin…blah, blah, blah. Yes, these things can be true, but they can also be perversions of Scripture that the wicked use against us. In dealing with the wicked, as someone has recently said, we must be shrewd. We must be wise as serpents. “No, I am right and you are wrong and I am not going to listen to you.”
In this case, myself and our elders and really our entire church membership confronted evil that has crept into the association of churches that we used to be members of. It’s the same old story you all would recognize. Power and control seekers bullying and lording it over others. They will not listen to anyone. They will not admit any wrong doing. They are never wrong. YOU are the problem. And furthermore, the very idea that YOU would dare act in such an un-Christian manner by saying such things to them…well, you should be ashamed of yourself! Sound familiar? I bet it does.
In this case, we determined that we were going to openly air our decision to resign as members of this association. We wanted the entire membership to know what our reasons were for resigning, rather than just having the Controllers shove our resignation letter in some file where no one would see. Oh, you should have heard the howlings, the caustic remarks of the power brokers, the accusations fired back at us. You would recognize it all as what we call “abuserese.”
Now, something interesting happened. Though our online exchange through “reply all” was witnessed then by most every member of the association, no one stepped forward in that thread to stand with us. What did happen, and we are thankful in part for some of this, is that numbers of pastors and churches contacted us privately and thanked us profusely, telling us that they shared our observations completely. What was interesting however is that they would add at the close of their letter…”please don’t tell anyone we said these things to you.” A spirit of fear reigns in that association. Why? Fear of what? Martin Luther could have been burned at the stake when he said “here I stand.” But what’s to fear here? That one of these “eminent pillars” of the association, these Diotrephes who have loved and enjoyed being “first” might rail against you? Christ has not called us to be invertebrates, brothers and sisters! Show some backbone!
But to our main point. In one of the replies from an ally of the power brokers, we saw a tactic that surely is very commonly used by abusers. I suspect you all have seen it in action. There may be a technical name for it, but I will just call it “reflective blaming,” and this is how it works. We confronted these bullies and told them that their abusive spirit is what we see and reject. We listed examples of this ungodly spirit. We knew they wouldn’t listen, but no matter. Abusers need to be confronted. They should have been called out a long, long time ago but their tactics were kept secret, that secrecy aided by the wrong-headed notion that “Christians must never speak negatively of a brother.”
Now, what do we mean by “reflective blaming.” This ally of the wicked told us, “Here is the irony. The very same ungodly spirit that you are saying we are guilty of is what you yourselves are guilty of.” See what he is saying? “Well, you say that we are abusers, but you are abusing us by saying so.” It’s like addressing a mirror that has the capability of reflecting everything you say back at and upon you. We even see this in children. “Well you do it too!” And of course the goal of the abuser in using this tactic is to remove at least 50% of the blame from himself and put it back on you.
When this reflective blaming hits you, how do you respond? If we aren’t careful, we will let it do its intended damage by accepting this blame. Hey, that’s the humble Christian thing to do, right? No! As soon as we catch ourselves starting to think and feel that, “whoa. I’m guilty. I have sinned by confronting my abuser. I should have been more kind and humble and….” – STOP!! No, I am not guilty of the same thing that the abuser is doing. I reject that charge. We must look the abuser in the eye and say “I reject everything you are saying. Don’t try to remove guilt from yourself by deflecting it to me. I am not guilty of abuse. You are.”
Then listen to the wicked howl some more. “No one has EVER spoken to me this way!” No, they probably haven’t and that is a huge part of the problem.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17)
Let me propose to you that the Apostle James is hitting the nail smack on the head here as we consider what he says and apply it to how we see abusers and abuse victims being handled or “mis-handled” in the church. What do we see very widely and even typically in the reports we receive about how local pastors and churches respond to the evil of abuse in the pews? I say that James describes it here: “disorder and every vile practice.” Right? Witness after witness has testified to all of us that this was their experience when they called on the church to help defend them against their abuser. Now, what does James tell us is at the root of this “disorder and every vile practice”? What is the evil root that is producing this bad fruit of demeaning, disregarding, minimizing victims while enabling and allying with the evil abuser? James says it: “…bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, jealousy, SELFISH AMBITION (he repeats that one).” And the source of this evil root? Earthly, unspiritual, demonic “wisdom.” Scary, huh?
Think about it. What does that say about so many local churches and “ministries” claiming to be serving Christ? If you want to know the real nature and spirit of someone or something that professes to be “Christian,” consider how they handle abusers, abuse victims, and evil that creeps in among them. In contrast, James says that where God’s Spirit truly is leading and imparting God’s true wisdom, the result will be, “purity of doctrine, peace, gentleness, rationality, mercy overflowing, good fruits, IMPARTIALITY (of judgment) and sincerity.” And if you want to know if this is the spirit of a place, once more I suggest that you find out how they respond to and deal with evil that comes along looking to creep in and deceive and make people captives.
Abuse in churches is widespread because abusers in churches are widespread. They are tolerated and even exalted (which is what they are after) while gross injustice is dealt to their victims. James is telling us plainly here that the problem is that earthly, unspiritual, and demonic “wisdom” is what energizes and directs such a place. And a church like that opened the door wide to that demon when they became arrogant, self-exalting, and selfishly ambitious. They quenched the Holy Spirit, He departed, and the evil one sent a legion of his spirits to move in.