The Power of Standing

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September 16, 2021- Yesterday, in the halls of Congress, four undaunted women stood for a photograph, after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The matter was the abject failure of organized gymnastics, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to either protect girls and young women from abuse by their coaches, trainers and the team physician, or to properly investigate charges of such abuse and bring the perpetrators to justice. It took reporters from The Indianapolis Star to bring matters to light, and thus empower these physically and sexually battered women to stand tall and speak.

We have, as a species, a duty to our young. We have, as a species, an obligation to do all in our power to help them find and develop theirs. Children and teens are not playthings, nor are men and women, for that matter. The bad old days when children “were to be seen and not heard” are gone-and good riddance. Had my parents told me, or my siblings, to put up and shut up, I might not be alive to write these words. I was loath to stifle our son from thinking independently and I observed my siblings raising strong, independent thinkers and doers, as well. The tradition extends to their grandchildren, and will to mine, when they come along.

I have been involved with young people for forty-five years. I made most of my mistakes and unlearned several limiting behaviours, whilst working with Generation X and Millennials. My work has been quite a bit more polished with Gen Z and the Alphas. One thing I did not do, ever, was approach a child or teen with my own gratification in mind. That has been the basis for a career that focused on safeguarding the abused and tortured.

Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman are genuine heroes, but they should never have had to be, at least not in the way they are after coming forward. These women should have been able to stand tall on the merits of their athletic prowess, not on the precipice of their survival. Yet, for all that, I am immensely proud of anyone who stands up and speaks truth to power-especially as an entry into her/his/their path of healing.

Human beings are not playthings, not now, not ever.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 5: Whose Children Matter?

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September 13, 2020-

In some of my response to reports of abused and neglected children, it has come back at me that these particular campaigns are cherry-picked, Right-Wing trope activities. Maybe so, but I personally don’t cherry-pick, as to which children get attention and which go without.

Early in my counseling career, a severe sexual assault case was brought to me and the Response Team was in the midst of getting the victim to safety, when a call came about another child threatening suicide. I asked my senior partner to take that case and get back to me, once the child had been evaluated. This was unusual, for the particular community to have two victims at the same time, but there was no daylight, no distinction, between one child and the other.

One red flag, which discomfits many, is a child who gets too close, who hugs too tightly or even wants to sit on a non-related adult’s lap. I’ve dealt, gently, but firmly, with several such children, almost always girls-and who were either being totally ignored, shunned by their father or were being grommed by an adult either in, or known to, their immediate family. Getting the father to acknowledge, and spend quality time with, his daughter was relatively easy. The girls being taught sexual behaviours had, however, to be removed from the home and placed in group homes, where experienced professionals were able to give them the advanced therapy they needed.

I think of these children, a few of whom have kept in touch, as adults and are doing quite well, considering the ordeals that came their way. I think of them all the more, in light of the current Netflix film, “Cuties”, which uses exhibitionism as a vehicle to “combat sexual exploitation of children”. Counterintuitive, at best, and exploitative in itself, at worst, I see the showing of the film as a serious error in judgement. There was a period, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, when young European and South American girls were featured in some rather lurid websites-with the sites’ owners and photographers claiming their work was “art”. Fortunately, Interpol, the FBI, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, and, wondrously, the Russian FSB, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, took these sites down and the long process of finding and rehabilitating the child victims was initiated. I would not want to see anything close to that horrific state of affairs be repeated.

That said, the vast majority of sexual and physical abuse of children takes place in situations familiar to them, at the hands of people whom they ought to be able to trust. This makes it both simple and complex, for the helping professional- Simple, in that the child is easy to locate and remove from the home; complex, in that there is often a culture of denial in place, largely based on fear of disruption and dislocation of the family unit.

Getting co-operation from the other family members is completely dependent on their degree of self-assurance and cohesiveness, independent of the perpetrator(s). In a close-knit community, even law enforcement officers. medical staff and social services workers, if they are related to the perpetrator, can be a hindrance to justice for the victim.

All these factors come into play with regard to obtaining justice, and if the matter involves a child, or multiple children, being groomed in sexual behaviour, there needs to be both a swift separation of perpetrator(s) and victim(s) and active therapeutic measures initiated as quickly as possible.

No child, anywhere, is less important than any other.