Is Domestic Abuse Just a Satanic Deception?

This came up in a comments conversation yesterday, and it is, unfortunately, a commonly-held idea. So I thought it would be worth expanding a bit and giving a spotlight of its own. Thanks for sharing, Hannah!

HANNAH:

I came across another [person who doesn’t understand. She said wives] are easily deceived just like Eve. [She] almost hinted that women THINK they are being abused, but generally they are just manipulating to make sure they get their way.

MY RESPONSE:

Why would this woman be under the impression wives are “easily deceived” “like Eve?” I do not see a single thing in Gen. 3 that says Eve was particularly vulnerable to deception, as opposed to Adam.

Nothing at all was said to Eve regarding her “weakness” or sin, other than being given her consequences for disobedience. God held her responsible for her choice but did not offer any additional comment or chastisement. It was simple consequences for action, as is always the case for sin.

But in Gen. 3 Adam was rebuked for listening to Eve – instead of obeying God. In his case, this was a sin of idolatry. He chose to obey his wife over God, when God had personally given Him instructions and he had a direct relationship with God on the subject. I believe this rebuke is clearly because of his idolatry, not because of the gender of the person to whom he listened! God takes idolatry very seriously.

At the same time, there is nothing in this passage to support the idea (extrapolated from the text by some preachers) that men who listen to their wives are panty-waists.

Adam was the person to whom God had given the instruction about what to eat and what to avoid – not Eve. We are left completely in the dark as to what Eve did or did not know about what God told Adam, other than that God said she wasn’t supposed to eat of that tree. So we really cannot make guesses as to her guilt or innocence of motive beyond the text. All we have is what is in the text. She knew better, she chose to do it anyway, and she was given consequences as a result of that choice.

God did not offer any additional rebuke to Eve. However, God did rebuke Adam. That rebuke was not because Adam failed to be a good leader to his family (as some pastors like to say). It was not because he failed to be a “big enough man” (as some pastors like to say). It was because Adam committed idolatry – plain and simple. He obeyed man rather than God. God Himself had given Adam a direct command and Adam chose to follow someone else.

Elsewhere in Scripture it says Eve was deceived and Paul expressed concern that Satan could deceive the Corinthian believers in the same way (II Cor. 11:3). Again, there is no implication here that this was a “woman” problem, as opposed to a “man” problem. In fact, Paul was addressing Christians of both sexes — he obviously didn’t think this was a “wives” or “woman” problem!

THE reason this woman has the idea women are easily deceived is because preachers preach that garbage from the pulpit as if it were from the Bible. They support it with passages like the “weaker vessel” verse, etc. and say women are morally weaker than men. This is utterly unsupportable by the Word and takes verses out of context to create a new doctrine out of whole cloth.

However, preachers today do not come by this idea out of their own heads. This is a long-standing, unbroken tradition from at least as far back as St. Augustine in the Catholic church. St. Augustine stamped large on the theology of the church regarding the roles of men and women.

Unfortunately, Augustine’s beliefs on the subject of marriage were colored by two utterly unreliable – and extra-biblical – sources. He viewed his own parents’ dysfunctional marriage as an ideal. His mother absolutely submitted to his father’s rages and taught other women to blindly and unquestioningly do that same. He also thought highly of the philosophy of Aristotle, who espoused the idea that women must be subjugated to men for the sake of the function of community. Aristotle lived before Christ and certainly did not acquire any of his ideas from any Judeo-Christian text.

But these two sources — the marriage of Augustine’s parents and the philosophy of Aristotle — were the unspoken mold that held the hand that wrote the theology of marital roles still being taught in Protestant churches today. (As time allows I will eventually write more extensively on this subject later.)

The person who said “women who think they are being abused are just deceived” is merely regurgitation the male domination/female subjugation doctrine she has been fed from the pulpit as if God said it, and she completely believes it. Unfortunately, she is far from alone in her deception.

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Adventist Church’s Annual Abuse Prevention Day

Today is the Annual Prevention Emphasis Day, and another blogger whose site I enjoy found an article an Adventist News Network that I wanted to share, too, because it serves as an excellent example for other church groups to follow.

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The Adventist Church’s annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, held August 23 this year, is part of a wider effort to curtail abuse within and outside of the church by changing attitudes, says Heather-Dawn Small, Woman’s Ministries director for the world Adventist Church.

Excuses cannot be part of the church’s message against abuse. So says Heather-Dawn Small, the no-nonsense Trinidadian who helps craft the world Seventh-day Adventist Church’s formidable yet sensitive approach to abuse prevention.

Since she began directing Women’s Ministries for the world church in 2001, Small, 50, has fought reluctance by some within the church to admit the reality of abuse. She applauded the church when it voted to add an Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day to its calendar of special Sabbaths, now held the fourth Sabbath of every August. But with local pastors telling her that 70 to 80 percent of their home counseling focuses on domestic abuse, she says the remaining 364 days are just as vital.

Given her ambitious travel schedule, luckily the former director of Children’s and Women’s Ministries for the church in the Caribbean is fond of flying. But helping church members respect each other and become partners in the church’s ministry is what propels her.

In the run-up to the church’s seventh annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, August 23, Small spoke to ANN about the church’s responsibility to convince every member that abuse is unconscionable, regardless of culture or upbringing. And, she explained that while the church is not equipped to comprehensively handle abuse, it can and should serve as a conduit, connecting abused women to local legal and counseling agencies. Excerpts:

Adventist News Network: Since the Adventist Church established Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, what specifically has been addressed?

Heather-Dawn Small: We’ve focused on child abuse and domestic violence, particularly spousal abuse, which is a big problem in the church. During the first couple of years, most of what we emphasized was creating an awareness of abuse in general. It’s only in recent years that we’ve begun to deal very specifically with topics, such as Abuse of Power, which is this year’s theme.

ANN: Are your efforts well received?

Small: We’ve generally gotten very good feedback. There are those people who still think, ‘Well, do we really need to handle this in the church?’ or ‘Do we have to bring this up on Sabbath?’ But that attitude is getting rarer. It’s more like it was long overdue that the church would actually have an abuse prevention day and that materials would be provided.

ANN: You travel extensively. Where do you find that the church’s anti-abuse message is best latching on and what tactics seem to be most effective?

Small: I just got back from Uganda and Kenya. In Africa, there is definitely a lot of progress being made. Because of the culture in some of these countries, abuse to some extent is almost regarded as a “right” of the husband. I know in the Caribbean, where I come from, that was a longstanding problem. It isn’t now, but it took years and years to reverse that thinking. In countries where that mindset is still pervasive, the church is partnering with governments and other churches to speak out against it and launch programs that will sweep through the community, not just within the church. It’s more effective than for us to try to do it on our own. If there is a community-based program or government initiative against domestic violence already there, why shouldn’t we join them?

ANN: What would you single out as one of the biggest challenges the church faces in working to end abuse?

Small: There’s very little we can do to immediately change the mindset of the man, and sometimes even the woman. As we keep talking about [abuse prevention], attitudes slowly change. You see, it doesn’t happen overnight. Some people may think, ‘OK, fine, we’ve talked about abuse,’ and then forget about it, but it’s only as we reiterate our message and keep it at the forefront that things begin to change.

ANN: How far-reaching is the church’s message against abuse? Are there limits to what the church can accomplish?

Small: Our goal is to create environments where women feel safe opening up. I think that’s one of the roles that a Women’s Ministries department fills — it’s a place where women can feel safe approaching a leader or another woman and saying, ‘Listen, I have a problem.’ This has happened to me countless times as I’ve traveled and I always try to connect these women with a social worker through the local Women’s Ministries director. As a church, we are not equipped to properly handle addressing the abuse itself, even though we are creating an awareness of the problem. That’s why we have to partner with legal and counseling agencies that are already in the community.

ANN: The church doesn’t cite abuse as a valid reason for divorce. How do you advise women who are in dangerous and unworkable situations?

Small: Being a pastor’s wife for many years, and now directing Women’s Ministries, the immediate concern is for the wellbeing of the woman and her children. In many cases, the woman has to escape. Of course the challenge is that if there are no shelters, where does she escape to? Church members are sometimes afraid to open up their own homes in case the husband comes and harms them as well. Sometimes the church will help the woman relocate. I know the question of divorce can get quite complicated, and while I don’t see it being an immediate option, I’m not going to rule it out because there are women who have resorted to divorce when their husbands refuse to get help. But our immediate concern is that the women get out of the environment if it is harmful or hurtful.

ANN: You’ve said that it’s difficult to change ingrained attitudes toward abuse. At what age can children begin to learn appropriate behavior patterns so that new generations can hopefully reverse old thinking?

Small: In South America, the church has a program targeting elementary children. They create characters and stories with pictures that teach kids about child abuse and domestic violence. There are materials available, people go into the schools dressed up as these characters — they sing, they act, they dance and the kids learn how to respect others and how to respect themselves. Their theme right now is Abuse of the Elderly. I visited Brazil earlier this year and was amazed by how well thought-out the program is. And when we start with the children, we’re looking at the next generation coming up. When we put into their minds the importance of respect for others and themselves, I think that message is going to stay with them, and it’s impacting their parents as well.

ANN: Have you noticed any factors that seem to influence attitudes toward abuse?

Small: Social standing and education levels, unfortunately, mean nothing, whether we’re talking about the abuser or the abused. This is such a big challenge. We’d like to be able to say education level changes things, that people begin to see that this is wrong, but we don’t see that happening.

ANN: For Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day resource materials, you’ve said that you’re now honing in on specific abuse topics rather than the more umbrella-like treatment of previous years. What themes have yet to be addressed?

Small: While we’ve talked about child abuse, we’ve not specifically targeted child sexual abuse, but I think that — as you can see from the news — this is a huge problem. Similarly, when we’ve talked about spousal abuse, we’ve not talked about the abuser. I think that’s something we’re going to have to deal with. Do we just condemn these people, or do we still consider them children of God? After the abuse itself has been addressed, after the law and social workers have gotten involved, do we seek to rehabilitate the abuser? We also need to find what it is that causes young women to stay with a man who is abusive, even before they’re in a marriage. We’re discovering that quite a lot of domestic violence begins long before the vows are said. We need to ask how we can help young women make the right choices and see themselves as being worthy of something better.

ANN World News Bulletin is a review of news and information issued by the Communication department from the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. It is made available primarily to religious news editors. Our news includes dispatches from the church’s international offices and the world headquarters.

________
Reproduction Requirements:
Reproduction of information in this article is encouraged. When reproducing this material, in full or in part, the words “Source: Adventist News Network” must appear under the headline or immediately following the article. The words “Source: Adventist News Network” must be given equal prominence to any other source that is also acknowledged.

Ground 7 News Podcast:
Ground 7 News is a review of news and information issued by the Communication Department from the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. Reproduction of the ANN podcast is encouraged. When rebroadcasting this material, in full or in part, the words “Source: Adventist News Network” must be mentioned before and after the podcast.

ANN Staff:
Rajmund Dabrowski, director; Ansel Oliver, assistant director; Elizabeth Lechleitner, editorial coordinator; Megan Brauner, editorial assistant. Portuguese translation by Azenilto Brito, Spanish translation by Marcos Paseggi, Italian translation by Vincenzo Annunziata and Lina Ferrara and French translations by Stephanie Elofer.

Is it Rape When Your Husband Does It?

A cyber friend from the other side of the world sent me a link last night about partner rape. I’ve added it to my list of “Related Websites.” Little did she know the storm she would set off for me.

This is a subject I’ve known I need to write about, but have persistently procrastinated. There are so many other things in the world to talk about. I can talk forever without ever mentioning this subject, surely. Right?

First, I opened her e-mail with the link. I got tense, but added the link to my site; responded to her e-mail. Whew. Made it through OK. Then there was another e-mail from her with an attachment. I opened the attachment. It was an excerpt from the site. Oh, darn. Only one page. OK. I made it through the page. By the end of the page I was physically ill. I almost had to leave the room. I sat back and concentrated on deep breathing and not throwing up.

I got up, unplugged my computer and brought it outside to the patio where I am now, and my stomach is back where it belongs. I guess I really do have to write about this. Because I know I’m not the only one. There are others reading this who know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

It happens in Christian marriages. Sometimes it is forcible violent rape. Mine wasn’t. In some ways I wish it was. Just like I used to wish he would hit me. If he would just hit me I could call the police and everyone would finally believe me. If I just had some visible bruises everyone else would know I wasn’t lying.

After our daughter was born, in one of his screaming rages, Gary swore he would never come near me in an intimate way again. And he proceeded to denigrate me so horribly that I could certainly not initiate anything and retain a shred of self respect. I remained calm, as I had learned to do, and asked him if he realized what he was saying. He affirmed that he did and didn’t care. He meant it. And he did. He stayed away.

Throughout the next couple years I regularly let him know he was welcome back when he changed his mind. He didn’t change his mind. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. Once we had the details of the type of cancer I had and knew the cancer was highly hormone receptor positive, and I opted for a reconstructive surgery that permanently re-routed my Rectus abdominis muscles (those “6-pack” ab muscles) which support the uterus during pregnancy, we knew getting pregnant could kill me and would be at best, extremely difficult. We discussed this many times, and I told him repeatedly after that, he was welcome back when he changed his mind AND bought condoms. When he didn’t buy them, I finally did because the risk was just too great for a spur of the moment decision to cost me my life.

Digressing slightly, one of the many side-effects of chemo and the steroids that go with it, is insomnia. Like everyone else who takes chemo, I was prescribed a sleep aid. I attempted to go off it a few months after completing chemo, but my body wasn’t ready yet and I had to go back on the medication. It was a very big deal that everyone in the family was aware of because of the dramatic effects of the attempt. (There’s a reason for that little digression. 😉 ) I was finally able to go off the sleep aid about a year after completing chemo.

Meanwhile, however, the last summer we were together, about one year after starting chemo, there were three times when I woke in the night to find Gary having his way with me. Due to the medication I was unable to remain awake (I was in and out of wakefulness throughout), participate deliberately, tell him to stop, or refuse to do anything he told me to do as long as it didn’t require any coordinated action on my part. One time he did something I had repeatedly asked him not to do throughout our marriage, but he had done a few times anyway. One time he “forgot” to use a condom. And once he did something I had always refused to let him do because I felt it was derogatory within the nature of our relationship. He crowed about it for days afterwards and I felt completely ashamed.

And I could say nothing. I was very confused. On one hand, I had told him he was welcome back anytime he changed his mind. But I didn’t mean in the middle of the night when I didn’t know about it. Did he somehow think that was OK? Or did he think because I was in and out and didn’t stop him, I was agreeing to it?

But I knew if I said anything about any of these events three things would happen. One, he would fly into a rage. He was already doing that on an almost daily basis. Two, he would immediately call his parents (he tattled to his parents about everything constantly) and tell them I was “again” denying him sex, which was one of his favorite (unfounded) complaints. Three, he would use this as another mark against me with all his friends and our pastors – another favorite thing to do.

For the next 8 months I had terroristic nightmares every single night, even after I left him, which was 2 months after the last time it happened. I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I didn’t know what would happen. Every night I dreamed he was either trying to rape me, kill me, or had lost our daughter and blamed me (because that sort of thing actually happened). Frequently I woke up sobbing out loud or shaking so hard the whole bed rattled. Three or four days a week I woke up with a screaming migraine.

I will always believe that at least subconsciously he wanted to kill me when he “forgot” to use a condom. How do you “forget” to use a condom when it’s been two and a half years and you know it can kill your wife if she gets pregnant? And you’re sneaking it in when she’s asleep? I also know that when I first told him the doctor told me the biopsy was positive for cancer his response was, “Now I’ll have to find a new wife.” He wanted out of our marriage but his code of ethics wouldn’t let him admit it to himself much less be the one to actually pull the plug.

The only way I eventually got relief was with the help of a psychologist. And I don’t know why it helped. But it did. [NOTE: After I originally wrote this I remembered why this helped; but it’s not relevant; and much too detailed for this venue, so we will draw a curtain here. If anyone really needs to know, e-mail me.]

There were a whole pile of last straws in our relationship. The escalating aggression. Realizing that the verbal and emotional abuse were just as deadly as the physical violence. Realizing that I was just as worth saving as my children were. Getting cancer – I believe from the stress of living in the abuse. Realizing I was setting an example for my daughter to marry an abuser. Seeing him start to treat our daughter the way he had started with the boys when they were her age.

But this was definitely another of the “last straws.” And it was one of the hardest ones. It was one of the ones I “felt” the strongest about, but could least express. I told my attorney about it and I told my pastors. But it was certainly not something I could bring up in court. They would have made mincemeat out of me, and at that point I was definitely not strong enough emotionally to bear it. Gary could completely deny any evil intention. And he would have been absolutely believable. I would have looked like a raving lunatic out to destroy an innocent man.

But inside I was destroyed. At the time, I was sure I could never marry again. I was convinced there was no way a man was ever getting anywhere close to me in this lifetime. Three years later, I think I’ve gained enough distance that it won’t be an impossible hurdle.

At the same time, with the way the church deals with abuse, I am quite sure in the normal way of things, if a wife were to take a situation like this to her pastors she would get no consideration at all. And that would be profoundly wrong, because what happened to me was a gross violation. I don’t really know what to call it. Do you call it rape? I don’t know. It was certainly sexual assault. I wasn’t a willing participant. It was “taken” without my consent, and cruelly at that – without leaving a mark on me. Just because he was my husband did not give him that right.

Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse

This article is courtesy of The Leadership Counsel on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence.

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Few people are aware of the true state of the science on child abuse. Instead, most people’s beliefs have been shaped by common misconceptions and popular myths about this hidden crime. Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children. The Leadership Council prepared this analysis because we believe that society as a whole benefits when the public has access to accurate information regarding child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Myth 1:  Normal-appearing, well educated, middle-class people don’t molest children.

One of the public’s most dangerous assumptions is the belief that a person who both appears and acts normal could not be a child molester. Sex offenders are well aware of our propensity for making assumptions about private behavior from one’s public presentation. In fact, as recent reports of abuse by priests have shown, child molesters rely on our misassumptions to deliberately and carefully set and gain access to child victims.

According to Dr. Anna Salter, Ph.D., a foremost expert in sex offenders, “a double life is prevalent among all types of sex offenders . . . . The front that offenders typically offer to the outside world is usually a ‘good person,’ someone who the community believes has a good character and would never do such a thing” (Salter, 2003, p. 34).

In her years of work with sex offenders, Dr. Salter has found they commonly employ a variety of tactics which allow them to gain access to children while concealing their activities. For instance, many seek responsible positions that place them in close proximity with children. They also tend to adopt a pattern of socially responsible and caring behavior in public. Many have practiced and perfected their ability to charm, to be likeable and to radiate a facade of sincerity and truthfulness. This causes parents and others to drop their guard, allowing the sex offender easy and recurring access to children.

In fact, Dr. Salter has found that the life a child molester leads in public may be exemplary, almost surreal in its righteousness. In her book, Dr. Salter presents the following description written by a child molester who had used his position as a church choir director to gain access to boys.

I want to describe a child molester I know very well.  This man was raised by devout Christian parents.  As a child he rarely missed church.   Even after he became an adult he was faithful as a church member.  He was a straight A student in high school and college.  He has been married and has a child of his own.  He coached Little League baseball.  He was a Choir Director at his church.   He never used any illegal drugs.  He never had a drink of alcohol.   He was considered a clean-cut, All-American boy.  Everyone seemed to like him.  He was a volunteer in numerous civic community functions.  He had a well-paying career job.  He was considered “well-to-do” in society.   But from the age of 13-years-old he sexually molested little boys.   He never victimized a stranger.  All of his victims were friends.  . . I know this child molester very well because he is me!!!!

Soon after writing this, the author of this confession was released on parole.  Upon release, he quickly infiltrated a church where he molested children until he was again caught and returned to prison” (Salter, 2003, pp. 36-37).

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children . New York: Basic Books.

Myth 2:  People are too quick to believe an abuser is guilty, even if there is no supporting evidence.

In truth, people are too quick to believe that the accused is innocent, even if there is plenty of supporting evidence. According to Dr. Salter, ” Normal , healthy people distort reality to create a kinder, gentler world than actually exists” (p. 177). She notes that in order to find meaning and justice in everyday life, most people assign victims too much blame for their assaults and offenders too little. In truth, it is hard for most people to imagine how any person could sexually abuse a child. Because they can’t imagine a “normal” person doing such a heinous act, they assume that child molesters must be monsters.  If the accused does not fit this stereotype (in other words if he appears to be a normal person), then many people will disbelieve the allegation, believing the accused to be incapable of such act.

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children. New York : Basic Books.

Myth 3:  Child molesters molest indiscriminately. 

Not everyone who comes in contact with a child molester will be abused. Although this finding may seem obvious, some interpret the fact that an abuser didn’t molest a particular child in their care to mean that those children who do allege abuse must be lying. In truth, sex offenders tend to carefully pick and set up their victims Thus while sex offenders may feel driven to molest children, they rarely do so indiscriminately or a plan.

Research with sex offenders confirms that they tend to carefully select and “groom” their victims (Conte, Wolf, & Smith, 1989). For instance, Elliott, Browne and Kilcoyne (1995) interviewed with 91 child molesters, the all-male sample reported that they most often chose children who had family problems, were alone, lacked confidence, and were indiscriminate in their trust of others — especially when the child was also perceived to be pretty, “provocatively” dressed, young, or small.

Rather than being a sudden, initially traumatic occurrence, most sex abuse involves a gradual “grooming” process in which the perpetrator skillfully manipulates the child into participating (Berliner & Conte, 1995). To ensure the child’s continuing compliance, sex offenders report using bribes, threats and force (Elliott et al.,1995).

Below, a young pedophile describes the careful planning that went into finding his next victim.

When a person like myself wants to obtain access to a child, you don’t just go up and get the child and sexually molest the child. There’s a process of obtaining the child’s friendship and, in my case, also obtaining the family’s friendship and their trust.  When you get their trust, that’s when the child becomes vulnerable and you can molest the child. (Salter, 2003, p. 42)

  • Berliner, L., & Conte, J. R. (1995). The effects of disclosure and intervention on sexually abused children. Child Abuse & Neglect , 19 , 371-84.
  • Conte, J. R., Wolf, S., & Smith, T. (1989). What sexual offenders tell us about prevention strategies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 13, 293-301.
  • Elliott, M., Browne, K., & Kilcoyne, J. (1995). Child sexual abuse prevention: What offenders tell us. Child Abuse & Neglect. 19 , 579-94.
  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders . New York : Basic Books.

Myth 4:  Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents.

The fact victims often fail to disclose their abuse in a timely fashion is frequently used as evidence that an alleged victim’s story should be doubted. Research, however, shows that children who have been sexually assaulted often have considerable difficulty in revealing or discussing their abuse.

Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999). A nationally representative survey of over 3,000 women revealed that of those raped during childhood, 47% did not disclose to anyone for over 5 years post-rape. In fact, 28% of the victims reported that they had never told anyone about their childhood rape prior to the research interview. Moreover, the women who never told often suffered the most serious abuse. For instance, younger age at the time of rape, a family relationship with the perpetrator, and experiencing a series of rapes were all associated with delayed disclosure (Smith et al., 2000).

Sex offenders typically seek to make the victim feel as though he or she caused the offender to act inappropriately, and convince the child that they are the guilty party. As a result, children often have great difficulty sorting out who is responsible for the abuse and frequently blame themselves for what happened. In the end, fears of retribution and abandonment, and feelings of complicity, embarrassment, guilt, and shame all conspire to silence children and inhibit their disclosures of abuse (Pipe & Goodman, 1991; Sauzier, 1989).

Boys seem to have a particularly difficult time dealing with sexual abuse and are even less likely to report it than girls. A review of 5 community-based studies revealed that rates of non-disclosure ranged from 42% to 85% in abused men ( Lyons , 2002). Research with abused males has found that the more severe the abuse, the more likely the boy is to blame himself and the less likely he will disclose the abuse (Hunter et al., 1992). In addition to self-blame, reluctance of boys to disclose abuse may be traced to the social stigma attached to victimization, along with fears that they will be disbelieved or labeled homosexual (Watkins & Bentovim, 1992).

  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as Victims of Violence: A National Survey. Pediatrics, 94 (4, :413-420.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Hunter, J. A., Goodwin, D. W., & Wilson, R. J. (1992). Attributions of blame in child sexual abuse victims: An analysis of age and gender influences. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1, 75-89.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation . Arlington VA: National Victim Center .
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (on-line: http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?65+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+97+(Winter+2002 )
  • Pipe, M. E., & Goodman, G. S. (1991). Elements of secrecy: Implications for children’s testimony. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 9, 33-41.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Smith, D. W., Letourneau, E. J., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., & Best, C. L. (2000). Delay in disclosure of childhood rape: Results from a national survey. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 273-87.
  • Watkins, B. & Bentovim, A. (1992).  The sexual abuse of male children and adolescents: A review of current research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 197-248.

Myth 5:  Children who are being abused will show physical evidence of abuse.

A lack of physical evidence of sexual assault is often cited as support that an alleged perpetrator must be innocent. However, research shows that abnormal genital findings are rare even in cases where the abuse has been proven. Some acts, like fondling and oral sex, leave no physical traces. Even injuries from penetration heal very quickly in young children and thus abnormal genital findings are not common, especially if the child is examined more than 48 hours after the abuse. In fact, even with proven penetration in up to 95% of cases, genital examinations will be essentially normal.

In one study, case files and colposcopic photographs of 236 children with perpetrator conviction for sexual abuse, were reviewed. The investigators found that genital findings in the abused girls were normal in 28%, nonspecific in 49%, suspicious in 9%, and abnormal in 14% of cases (Adams, Harper, Knudson, & Revilla, 1994).

An even lower rate of abnormal findings was found in a large scale study of the 2384 children referred for medical evaluation of sexual abuse. The investigators found that only 4% of the children had abnormal examinations at the time of evaluation. Even with a history of severe abuse such as vaginal or anal penetration, the rate of abnormal medical findings was only 5.5% (Heger, Ticson, Velasquez, & Bernier, 2002).

This low rate of abnormal findings was confirmed in a case review of children with proven sexual abuse consisting of 36 pregnant adolescent girls who presented for sexual abuse evaluations. Historical information and photograph documentation were reviewed to determine the presence or absence of genital findings that indicate penetrating trauma. Only 2 of the 36 (5.5%) pregnant girls showed definitive evidence of penetration (Kellogg, Menard, & Santos , 2004).

  • Adams, J. A., Harper, K., Knudson, S., & Revilla, J. (1994). Examination findings in legally confirmed child sexual abuse: It’s normal to be normal. Pediatrics, 94 (3), 310-7.
  • Heger, A., Ticson, L., Velasquez, O., & Bernier, R. (2002). Children referred for possible sexual abuse: medical findings in 2384 children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 645-59.
  • Kellogg, N. D., Menard, S. W., & Santos , A. (2004).  Genital anatomy in pregnant adolescents: ” Normal ” does not mean “nothing happened”. Pediatrics, 113 (1 Pt 1), 67-9.

Myth 6:  Hundreds of innocent men and women have been falsely accused and sent to prison for molesting children.

Over and over again, the media has raised the question whether America is in the midst of a hysterical overreaction to the perceived threat from pedophiles. Actual research, however, shows that, as a whole, our society continues to under-react and under-estimate the scope of the problem.

Prior to the 1980s, child sexual abuse was largely ignored, both by the law and by society as a whole. In the 1980s, when the scope of the problem began to be acknowledged, the police began to arrest adults accused of child abuse. A backlash quickly formed and police and prosecutors were soon accused of conducting “witchhunts.” Although some early cases were handled badly — mainly because the police had little experience in dealing with very young child witnesses — there is little evidence to back the assertion that there was widespread targeting of innocent people.

In fact, research has consistently shown that few abusers are ever identified or incarcerated. Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999).

Further research reveals that of the few cases reported to authorities, relatively few accused offenders are ever investigated or charged. For instance, the first National Incidence Study (Finkelhor, 1983) found that criminal action was taken in only 24% of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse — a finding replicated by Sauzier (1989). After reviewing numerous studies, Bolen (2001) noted that in the end, offenders may be convicted in only 1-2% of cases of suspected abuse known to professionals. And even then, most convicted child molesters spend less than one year in jail.

Based on the high prevalence of sexual crimes against children on our society, it strains credulity to assume that the small number of cases that are actually prosecuted constitute a “witchhunt”, or that somehow mostly innocent people are targeted for prosecution. In fact, statistics suggest quite the opposite: child abusers are rarely identified or prosecuted.

  • Bolen. R. M. (2001).  Child sexual abuse: Its scope and our failure . New York: Kluwer Academic.
  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-39.
  • Finkelhor, D. (1983). Removing the child – prosecuting the offender in cases of child sexual abuse: Evidence from the national reporting system for child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7, 195-205.
  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as victims of violence: A national survey. Pediatrics, 94, 413-20.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation. Arlington VA : National Victim Center.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Timnick, L. (August 15, 1985). The Times poll: Twenty-two percent in survey were child abuse victims. Los Angeles Times, p. 1.

Myth 7:  If asked about abuse, children tend to exaggerate and are prone to making false accusations.

Contrary to the popular misconception that children are prone to exaggerate sexual abuse, research shows that children often minimize and deny, rather than embellish what has happened to them.

In one study, researchers examined 28 cases in which prepubescent children had tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease by forensically accepted procedures. To be included in the study, the children had to have presented for a physical problem with no prior disclosure or suspicion of sexual abuse and were required to have adequate expressive language capabilities. Each of the 28 children was interviewed by a social worker trained in abuse disclosure techniques and use of anatomically correct dolls. Only 12 of the 28 (43%) of the abused children interviewed gave any verbal confirmation of sexual contact (Lawson, & Chaffin, 1992).

Another study involved a perpetrator who pled guilty after videotapes documenting his abuse of ten children were found by authorities. Because of these detailed video recordings, researchers knew exactly what had happened to these children. They were thus able to compare what the children told investigators when they were interviewed to the videotapes. Despite this abundance of hard physical evidence, the researchers found a significant tendency among the children to deny or minimize their experiences. Some children simply did not want to disclose their experiences, some had difficulties remembering them, and one child lacked adequate concepts to understand and describe them. Even when interviews included leading questions, none of the children embellished their accounts or accused the perpetrator of acts that he hadn’t actually committed (Sjoberg & Lindblad, 2002).

Some people believe that recantations are a sure sign that a child lied about the abuse. However, a recent study found that pressure from family members play a significant role in recantations. Mallory et al. (2007) examined the prevalence and predictors of recantation among 2- to 17-year-old child sexual abuse victims. Case files (n = 257) were randomly selected from all substantiated cases resulting in a dependency court filing in a large urban county between 1999 and 2000. Recantation (i.e., denial of abuse postdisclosure) was scored across formal and informal interviews. Cases were also coded for characteristics of the child, family, and abuse. The researchers found a 23.1% recantation rate. The study looked for but did not find evidence that these recantations resulted from potential inclusion of cases involving false allegations. Instead, multivariate analyses supported a filial dependency model of recantation, whereby abuse victims who were more vulnerable to familial adult influences (i.e., younger children, those abused by a parent figure and who lacked support from the nonoffending caregiver) were more likely to recant.

  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 532-42.
  • Malloy, L.C. , Lyon, T.D. , & Quas, J.A. (2007). Filial dependency and recantation of child sexual abuse allegations. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 162-70.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 312-4

Myth 8:  By using repeated interviews, therapists or police can easily implant false memories and cause false accusations among children of any age.

Although research has consistently shown that children rarely confabulate about having been abused and false allegations have been found to be rare (Everson & Boat, 1989; Jones & McGraw, 1987; Oates, et al., 2000), the potential for false allegations continues to be an area of great concern in sex abuse cases.

Whenever prominent adults are accused of abuse, we frequently hear allegations improper questioning and suggestions that the child may have invented molestation stories to please probing authority figures. We also hear concerns that inappropriate, suggestive therapies by overzealous clinicians may have shaped or implanted the allegations.

Recent research suggests that these concerns have been greatly exaggerated ( Lyons , 2001). There is now a substantial body of laboratory research which finds that children are quite reluctant to discuss embarrassing events (Lyon, 1999; 2002). Overall, laboratory research using suggestive questioning has consistently shown that negative events, especially events involving a child’s genitals, are relatively difficult to implant in children’s statements. In fact, research shows that children are more likely to fail to report negative experiences that actually did happen to them, than falsely remember ones that did not.

Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, and Moan (1991) studied the memory of 72 five and seven-year-old girls for a standardized medical checkup. Half of the children received a vaginal and anal examination as part of the checkup; while the other half of the children received a scoliosis examination of their back instead. The children’s memories were later solicited through free recall, anatomically detailed doll demonstration, and direct and misleading questions. The vast majority of vaginal and anal touch went unreported in free recall and doll demonstration, and was only disclosed when children were asked direct, doll-aided questions. The children who received a scoliosis exam never falsely reported genital touch in free recall or doll demonstration; and false reports were rare in response to direct questions.

It is also important to point out that many abused children exhibit post-traumatic and behavioral symptoms. To date no laboratory or clinical research supports the notion that children can falsely remember elaborate details of sexual abuse perpetrated by a trusted teacher, corroborate each other’s stories in independent interviews, and develop post-traumatic symptoms — based solely on police interviews or suggestive therapy.

  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113 , 403-39.
  • Everson, M.D., & Boat, B. W. (1989). False allegations of sexual abuse by children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 28 : 230-5.
  • Jones, D. P. H., & McGraw, J. M. (1987). Reliable and fictitious accounts of sexual abuse to children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 27-45.
  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7 , 532-42.
  • Lyon, T.D. (1999). The new wave of suggestibility research: A critique. Cornell Law Review, 84 , 1004-1087.
  • Lyon, T.D. (2001). Let’s not exaggerate the suggestibility of children. Court Review, 28 (3), 12-14. (on-line: http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/courtrv/cr38-3/CR38-3Lyon.pdf )
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park , CA : Sage. (on-line: http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?65+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+97+(Winter+2002 )
  • Oates, R. K., Jones, D. P., Denson, D., Sirotnak, A., Gary, N., & Krugman, R. D. (2000). Erroneous concerns about child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 , 149-57.
  • Pezdek, K., & C. Roe. (1997). The suggestibility of children’s memory for being touched: Planting, erasing, and changing memories. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 95-106.
  • Saywitz, K. J., Goodman, G. S., Nicholas, E., & Moan, S. F. (1991). Children’s memories of a physical examination involving genital touch: Implications for reports of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 59 , 682-91.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159 , 312-4.

Religion and Domestic Abuse

This article courtesy of STL Today.

This is a great article. One thing I notice in particular, however, was that after years of work, heavy advertising, personal calls to over 250 other places of worship for a domestic abuse awareness and support event — only 8 people showed up. This is deplorable, but an unfortunately universal state of affairs.

~~~

By Michele Munz

Kaye was a member of another congregation, a stranger when she visited Pat Merold, a pastor’s wife with an empathetic ear. The mother of four told her story hesitantly at first, barely looking up.

For years, Kaye’s husband called her fat and ugly. He brought women to their home for sex. He didn’t even try to hide it.

Kaye eventually mustered the courage to tell her minister what was happening.

But the minister belittled her pain. He said her husband, a church elder, was a good man. She just needed to be a better wife, he explained, then things would get better.

As she repeated her minister’s advice, Kaye’s quivering chin gave way to sobs.

Merold’s husband was pastor of a California church about 25 years ago when Kaye confided in her. It was the first time an abuse victim had come to her for help.

“What I learned was that these things do go on among people that go to church, and we have to listen,” said Merold, who moved with her husband, Ben, in 1991 to Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles.

For many reasons — often ignorance or denial — religious leaders struggle with how to respond to domestic abuse. Their focus is to keep families together and protect marriages, which, at times, can put their good intentions at odds with protecting victims, say advocates and some clergy members.

Yet clergy can be a powerful authority in challenging abusers, who sometimes falsely use religion to justify their abuse, research shows. Clergy also can be a source of physical and spiritual healing for victims.

Initiatives nationwide and locally are helping clergy to realize their unique role in combating domestic abuse and to respond to victims appropriately. The first step, advocates say, is to recognize that victims are in the pews.

Kaye eventually joined Merold’s church. Within a couple years, Kaye moved to another state to escape her husband.

Merold didn’t know it at the time, but Kaye’s ordeal was the first lesson in what would become her calling — to be a faith leader who listens and gives victims hope.

“It’s the lowered eyes, the sense of shame that grabs my heart,” Merold said.

FIGHTING DENIAL

Merold, 77, took the podium during a recent domestic abuse seminar for clergy members in St. Charles County. She was asked to speak about her ministry, which has taken the lead in the area in not only offering protection for victims, but tackling domestic abuse as a social issue within the church.

The ministry started, Merold explained, with a woman from Bible study who loved coming to Harvester Christian but was often absent. Suspicious, Merold visited the woman at her immaculate home.

Merold was appalled at what she found: The only food in the refrigerator for the woman and her two young children was a slice of cheese and two soda crackers. It wasn’t because of a lack of money — her husband did it to control her.

“I didn’t have any experience with that kind of thing,” Merold said.

During her speech, she tried to inspire the crowd, but building interest among clergy hasn’t been easy. The St. Charles County Family Violence Council, which organized the free event, sent brochures to every place of worship in the county — more than 250 — and followed up with phone calls.

But only eight people showed up — two from Merold’s church.

Denial is the biggest reason clergy don’t get more involved, said Rev. Al Miles, a hospital chaplain and author of “Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know.”

“What I hear is, ‘We don’t have that problem,’ or ‘Our women are too smart to be involved,’ and ‘No true men of God would do that,'” Miles said.

But statistics show domestic abuse is too pervasive for churches to be insulated. One of four women will be physically or sexually assaulted by a husband, ex-husband or boyfriend, according the National Violence Against Women Survey. Men can be victims, too, though not as frequently as women, the survey found.

Some domestic abuse extends beyond violence; it includes isolation, intimidation, criticism and stifling control. It cuts across all races, incomes and religions.

Victims who are religious prefer first to seek help from their clergy, studies show, and the response they receive will determine what they do next. However, only 8 percent of clergy feel prepared to offer good advice, according to data collected from over 500 religious leaders.

Indeed, some suggestions from clergy can be detrimental, advocates say. Victims have been told to keep to their vows, forgive, submit, persevere.

“If I’m being told by someone I recognize as my spiritual leader that I need to stay and pray and obey,” Miles said, “it’s all the more imprisoning.”

‘OVERWHELMING’

It’s difficult for religious leaders to learn about domestic abuse, especially when they contend with so many issues among their flocks, said Rev. Aleese Moore-Orbih with the FaithTrust Institute, a multi-faith organization that address religious issues related to abuse.

“They are overworked and have so much on their plates already, that they perceive it as something overwhelming,” Moore-Orbih said.

Clergy can find support through local victim-service providers, though the groups struggle to find common ground.

Clergy “look at us as non-Christians who just want to break up homes,” said Gloria Johnson of Life Source Consultants Inc., the primary victim-service provider in north St. Louis County. “We need to be able to bridge that gap.”

Despite challenges, the silence on domestic violence is disappearing, Moore-Orbih said: “Seems like every day, another denomination or faith organization is stepping up to the plate saying, ‘we want to do something.’ “

At the conference in St. Charles County, Merold said she had much to learn after discovering the empty refrigerator.

Merold bought the woman groceries. Later, the husband dumped the food on the table, put a gun to his wife’s head and ordered his family to “start eating,” Merold recalled.

A few weeks later, Merold got a call in the middle of a cold night. The woman and her children had fled to the streets in their pajamas. The county’s shelter was full. The Merolds took them in.

Days later, the pastor’s wife spotted a small house, back from the street. It would be a perfect place for someone to start a new life, Merold thought.

But she feared going to her church board to ask them to buy the house. She and her husband had only been at the church for two years. At the time, there were only 300 members.

The board’s decision, however, came easy.

‘CALLED TO RESPOND’

The Step Up Ministry started with that one house, where two domestic abuse victims and their families are allowed to stay with no time limit. Each year, Merold makes a brief plea for donations before the church — now with 3,500 members. Giving has been so generous, the church purchased another house that serves two more families.

Church support also helps provide car repairs, job training, medical care.

Merold started a weekly support group — Hope and Peace — for domestic abuse victims at the church. The brochures in the church lobby read, “Abuse is not God’s plan for a relationship!!”

Such outward messages from the church are just as important as knowing how to respond when victims disclose their abuse, advocates say. Religious leaders can let it be known that abuse is not tolerated. They can debunk misinterpretations of scripture used by men to justify abuse or leave victims feeling trapped.

“Every religion has sacred text that has been misinterpreted and used to subjugate women,” Moore-Orbih said. For example, the Jewish teaching Shalom Bayit can leave women feeling they must “keep the peace” at all costs.

And yet, about 95 percent of women of faith report they have never heard their leader preach about abuse, according to a national survey.

Father Harry Byrne, a Dominican priest for nearly 35 years and faculty member at Aquinas Institute of Theology, decided to take on the topic for the first time during a homily at St. Francis Xavier College Church, on the campus of St. Louis University. It was October, domestic violence awareness month.

“Unfortunately, in the past, our church has, in some ways, not helped much in this epidemic of domestic violence,” Byrne said that day. “We have not spoken out against it. … The Church rejects all forms of domestic violence and urges women to protect themselves and their children, even if that means some form of separation from their abusers.”

Twice the usual number of people approached Byrne afterward, thanking him for his words, he recalled. One was an emergency room nurse who treats victims. Some, he suspected, were victims themselves.

The experience made him realize domestic abuse permeates all levels of society, Byrne said, “and how churches especially are called to respond to this, not only in charity, but to insure that our theological notions are in no way supporting this idea.”

‘BEGIN WITH FAITH’

Clergy can help create a culture that values women, Moore-Orbih said. Domestic abuse is a learned behavior of power and control that can be mistakenly reinforced by religion, she added. “The way to begin the transformation … is to begin with our faith.”

Standing in the expansive lobby of Harvester Christian Church, Merold straightened the Hope and Peace brochures and Step Up donation envelopes in their slots along the walls.

On Sunday, more than 3,000 people will walk by. They be will wearing their Sunday best, seeking salvation and the strength to be Christ-like. But Merold never forgets that among those bowing their heads are men who hit and women who see no escape.

She says, “They’re among us.”

Sex Abuse Charge Dropped in Camp Tracy Case

This article courtesy of Jacksonville.com.

~~~

By Dana Treen, The Times-Union

A charge of lewd and lascivious behavior has been dropped against an 18-year-old resident of a Baker County home for troubled youths who had been arrested in an investigation of consensual sexual activity with another teenage resident.

Prosecutors and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office said they would continue to investigate unrelated accusations that an employee of Camp Tracey choked and manhandled residents. But the pastor of the Jacksonville church that runs the home said the teenagers involved in that case have recanted their accusations in a taped interview.

The sex charge against Benjamin Valentin Lewis was dropped Tuesday after the father of the 14-year-old who was involved said he did not want to prosecute, said Mel Bessinger, chief of the State Attorney’s Office in Baker County.

Bessinger said the sex acts were consensual. Lewis was released from jail, where he had been held on $3,000 bail.

“We certainly want to consider the wishes of the victim and the victim’s family,” Bessinger said.

He said an investigation is continuing into a charge of child abuse against “dorm father” John Edward Wilson, 46, who was arrested June 30. While unrelated to the sex case, the abuse involves the same 14-year-old, according to an earlier report in the Times-Union.

The investigation of Wilson began after residents being interviewed about the sex activity said they had been choked, slammed and thrown by Wilson at the youth home, located north of Glen St. Mary and operated by Harvest Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

On Wednesday, Harvest pastor Wilford McCormick said the accusers recanted the abuse charges in an unsolicited interview that was taped at the home after a July 4 cookout. He said the taped interview will be handed over to prosecutors today.

“Both the students who brought the physical abuse charges have totally retracted their statements and said they lied, made it up and fabricated the entire deal,” McCormick said.

McCormick said one boy came to a camp administrator and said he had made up the story about the abuse. Eventually, two boys said they simply wanted to get someone in trouble and a third said he made up the story, McCormick said. He said the admissions were taped with a volunteer teacher who is not part of the school administration.

Bessinger said prosecutors have not heard those statements.

“What is important is they didn’t come forward and tell us,” he said. “They haven’t come in here and talked to us.”

Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson said the boys told child protection personnel they were abused.

“They stuck with their story,” he said.

Sheriff’s investigator Brad Dougherty said in the past week he has been averaging five calls a day from past residents of the camp who said they were similarly pushed around and shoved against walls with a forearm in their necks.

He said the callers said Wilson was ill-tempered and fought with other staffers as well as grabbed residents by the neck.

McCormick said Wilson has been a good employee.

“As far as Camp Tracey is concerned, we’ve had no problem with Mr. Wilson,” he said.

The Nature of Manipulation

I found this article at rumination2.blogspot.com. Another great post from a great site.

~~~

In relationships, manipulation can be defined as:

any attempt to control, through coercion (overt or covert),another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

From this definition, manipulation would seem to have no advantages. However, if you are codependent and defined by others, there can be many advantages. When you allow others to control your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and make decisions for you,

— you do not have to think for yourself;

— you can avoid taking risks and making difficult decision;

— you can avoid taking a stand on controversial issues;

— you can avoid feeling responsible for negative outcomes;

— you get to blame others when things go wrong;

— you can believe, when others tell you how to behave, what to think, how to feel and what to decide, that you are “being loved” because they “want what is best for you”;

— you can avoid feeling separate and alone by avoiding conflict;

— you can avoid the hard work of emotional growth and development.

Appreciating the advantages of not being manipulated is to accept the hard work of living and interacting with others. It is about being willing to grow and develop emotionally.

These advantages can be that,

— you learn to know who you are, what you like, what you think, and how you feel;


— you learn to make difficult decisions;

— you get to take credit for your decisions;

— you learn to handle risks and uncertainty;

— you learn to handle differences and conflicts;

— you get to be in control of your life and know the freedom of personal self-reliance;

— you get to have an increased sense of self worth by feeling competent and capable of taking responsibility for your life and personal happiness.

Manipulation is usually attempted using power, unsolicited helping, rescuing, guilt, weakness, and/or dependence, in order to achieve a desired outcome. For example,

1) Power – physical, verbal, intellectual intimidation or threats, put-downs, belittling, withholding of things needed or wanted. The goal is to be in a “one up, I am right and you are wrong” position;

2) Unsolicited helping/rescuing – doing things for others when they do not request it, want it, or need it; helping others so they become indebted, obligated, and owe you. The goal is to be in the “after all I have done for you, and now you owe me” position;

3) Guilt – shaming, scolding, blaming others, attempting to make others responsible, trying to collect for past favors. The goal is to be in the “it is all your fault,” or “after all I have done for you and now you treat me like this” position;

4) Weakness/dependence – being (or threatening to become) helpless, needy, fearful, sick, depressed, incompetent, suicidal. The goal is to confuse want with need, with the message “if you do not take care of me, something bad is going to happen and it will be all your fault” position.

With manipulation, there is a physical and emotional response, such as a heightened level of anxiety or irritation, although it may not be perceived as such.

This is where boundaries differ from manipulation.

Boundaries (or limits) are statements about our values and where we stand on issues. True boundaries are not threats or about getting the other person to do what we want. True boundaries are not compromised by another’s response.

For example, you discover that your spouse has lied to you and has run up a large gambling debt. You discover the problem by chance, get financial and professional help and are back on track. However, there are new signs of trouble. It is time for some hard decisions.

– What is your bottom line?

– What will you tolerate?

– What manipulative tactics do you use to change your spouse’s behavior – check up on them constantly, bird-dog them, never let them be alone, hide the credit cards, lie to your creditors, parents, and children?

– How much rescuing, guilt, power plays, threats, and protection do you run on the gambler?

– At what point do you stop trying to change their behavior and let them know your bottom line?

You cannot make them do or not do anything. You can only let them know what your position is and what you are willing to do to protect yourself and those you are responsible for.

The problem with loud, threatening bottom lines, is that they keep getting louder, more threatening, and redrawn lower and lower.

We tend to determine what our position and action is by what the other person does, instead of voicing our true position and then responding accordingly. This is the time for tough decisions and actions.

In another example, a friend asks you for a ride to work because she is having car trouble. This is the time to establish ground rules, such as, how long will she need your help, pick up times, expense sharing, days off, etc. A boundary or limit is set when you clearly let your friend know what you are willing to do and not do.

Problems arise – she is frequently not on time morning and evening. Do you wait and be late, or do you leave her? Her car has been in the shop six weeks because she cannot afford to get it out. She has not offered to help with the expense, nor does she seem concerned about the arrangement.

Your friend is using weakness to manipulate and be dependent on you. She has transferred her problem to you and you have accepted it by rescuing and not setting boundaries or limits on your participation in her problem. If you refuse to wait when she is late and she has problems as a result, she will blame you and try to make you feel guilty. What we really want are for others to be responsible and play fair; however, when they do not, we either have to set boundaries, or feel manipulated and victimized with the accompanying advantages and disadvantages.

Lastly, often we confuse UNDERSTANDING with AGREEMENT.

This is when people confuse their decisions with wanting the recipient of a decision to like or agree with it. When we make decisions that oppose the desires of others, there is a cost. We usually attempt to minimize that cost by explaining, in exhaustive detail, our rationale for that decision, somehow thinking if they could just understand our position, they would agree.

Applying that scenario to parent and child – if a parent makes a decision based on the best interest of the child, it needs to be made separate from whether the child is going to like it.

When a child knows it is important to the parent that they be happy with a decision, then it will never be in the child’s personal interest to be happy with an unwanted decision.

If a child knows that their happiness with a parental decision is of equal importance to the decision itself, then all a child has to do is be unhappy in order to make their parent uncomfortable and doubt their decision — after all, it is always worth a try. This same dynamic can apply to interactions among adults also.

How do we manage manipulation? By becoming more aware of our interaction with others.

Is the interaction an attempt to communicate or does it feel like a contest?

Are you beginning to feel anxious or irritated?

Do you want to get out of the conversation?

Does the interaction fit into a manipulative style?

Is there an attempt to use power, service, guilt, or weakness to get your cooperation?

Are you a willing participant in your own manipulation?

Is it easier not taking responsibility?

Are you attempting to manipulate others instead of setting clear boundaries?

Are you making a distinction between a value and a preference?

Preferences can be negotiated, but values should not.

Our society does not deal well with differences in values and preference. We tend to take it as a personal affront and insult when others disagree with us. We will avoid conflicts at all costs, because it feels like rejection. What we need is to communicate to others, clearly and calmly, our values, preferences, and boundaries. We need to be respectful and dedicated to listening, hearing and appreciating, if not understanding, how we all are different.

Mary Treffert, LCSW, ACSW, is a Licensed, Clinical Social Worker, who is an individual, couple, and family therapist in Baton Rouge, LA.

www.marytreffert.com

This is one of a short series of articles from VictimBehavior.com.

You may reprint/reproduce any of these provided you include the entire copy, especially this credit.