Hotel Motel Tax Board to Hold Special Meeting February 27th

We have just learned that the Hotel Motel Board has scheduled a special meeting to discuss the Tourism Director Contract, and the budget (which by City Ordinance is due on March 1st). The meeting will be held February 27th at 5pm at the City Hall.

OpenNauvoo will attend the meeting, and stream it live on the openNauvoo facebook page. Things that should be considered in this meeting, based on the agenda items:

  1. A proposal to the City Council on whether the Tourism Director position is to be a contractor or an employee.
    1. Is a Tourism Director even needed?
      1. Part-time
      2. Full-time
      3. On a project basis
    2. If it is going to be a contractor, a request for bids should be prepared and advertised.
      1. Questions regarding the legality of considering this a contract position (considering the payment of all expenses, providing an office, etc. as discussed in our previous article).
    3. If an employee, it should be advertised, applications accepted, and reviewed.
  2. Budget
    1. Are details available to justify expenses?
      1. Citizens should know where the funds are being spent, specifically.
      2. Are funds being spent as required by State and Local statute (“solely to promote tourism and conventions within the municipality or otherwise to attract nonresident overnight visitors to the municipality”)
    2. Promotional Fee revenues. Are they a part of the budget?
      1. Are the contracts legal?
      2. Can all the funds be accounted for?
      3. Have contracts been followed by all parties?
      4. Has an audit of these payments been conducted?
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On Forgiveness and Abuse

Image result for forgiveness trust

by Rachel Held Evans

Note: Healing from abuse is a long and difficult road and requires a lot of “offline” work. If you have experienced abuse, or are in an abusive relationship, I’d encourage you get help from the authorities if necessary, and from in-the-flesh counselors if possible. I am not a professional counselor. Blog posts and social media can help us think through and confront the dynamics of abuse, and they can assist in healing, but they are no substitute for professional help. 

Lately I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations about the place of forgiveness and grace in the context of bullying and abuse. For Christians whose abuse occurs at the hands of a pastor or in the context of a religious environment, getting out and getting help can be complicated by appeals from the abuser (and his or her supporters) to Christian values like unity, grace, and forgiveness. These values are indeed at the very center of what it means to be Christian, and so it is especially tragic when they are invoked to maintain a culture of abuse or to shame those who speak out about it.

What makes this sort of response to bullying and abuse so profoundly damaging is the grain of truth it contains. Central to the Christian message of salvation is the scandalous good news that Jesus Christ sets both the oppressed and their oppressors free, that there is grace enough for them both. Christians are indeed called to forgive, even when it is costly and undeserved, and Christians are indeed called to work toward healing and reconciliation even when it is hard.

But these teachings should never be invoked to protect abusers, shame survivors, or coerce reconciliation. Yet in nearly every email I receive from survivors of abuse, (and sadly, I receive a lot), I hear stories about how hard it was for them to confront and address the abuse they suffered because they were told that doing so wasn’t Christlike.

So this is something we need to talk about.  It’s tough to disentangle stands of truth from strands of lies, strands of good motives from strands of selfish motives. Our conversation here is only a start, but here are four thoughts on which to build:

1.  Forgiveness does not require staying in an abusive situation.

Elizabeth Esther, author of Girl at the End of the World and herself a survivor of spiritual abuse, puts it beautifully: “Forgiveness means I carry no more resentment. It doesn’t mean I tolerate more abuse.” It’s only been in the last two or three years that I’ve been made aware of just how often victims of abuse are discouraged by church leaders from reporting and escaping their abuse. Often victims are told that it is selfish to speak up or get out, that just as Christ suffered on the cross, they must suffer too.

Let me say this loud and clear: There is nothing selfish about escaping an abusive relationship or a toxic religious environment. The life to which Jesus calls us is an abundant one, a joyful one, and a just one. It isn’t always easy, and it certainly requires self-sacrifice, but God does not delight in the suffering of His children. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If you are being bullied or abused in the name of religion, if you suffer the heavy yoke of legalistic rules and authoritarian church leadership, Jesus is calling you out of that life and into a new one, where the fruit of the Spirit isn’t coercion or fear, but rather love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Healing is a long and hard road, and forgiveness often takes time. But neither requires staying in a destructive, damaging environment. No one—not the abuser, not the abused, not the community—benefits when abuse or bullying goes unchallenged.  In fact, often the first step toward healing for everyone involved is to stop the abuse or to flee it. It’s hard to heal in a war zone. 

2.  Forgiveness does not require accepting empty apologies or trusting the bully/ abuser.

Here’s what I mean:  Anyone who has studied the dynamics of abuse knows that the “tearful apology” is often just a part of the cycle. A woman is abused by her boyfriend. She leaves. He offers a tearful apology. She accepts it as sufficient and returns to him. He starts abusing her again. And on and on it goes.  Those who have seen a loved one caught in this cycle know the frustration of hearing her say, “I think he really meant it this time,” when no substantive steps have been made to put an end to the abuse.

When Christians are told that Christlike forgiveness means accepting every apology as sincere, we can inadvertently perpetuate abuse. There is a difference, after all, between an apology and repentance. An apology is an acknowledgment of wrong. Repentance is marked by a dramatic change in direction, a noticeable change in behavior.  While neither an apology nor repentance is required for forgiveness, an apology alone is not enough to rebuild trust. The abused girlfriend can forgive her abuser without accepting another empty apology as a sufficient reason for returning to him.

Forgiveness isn’t earned, but trust is. You can forgive a person without trusting him.

Dan and I were talking about this yesterday, and Dan put it like this: “An apology is for the benefit of the bully/ abuser. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the victim. It releases the victim from lingering damage caused by past abuse. But it’s a mistake to tell anyone in an abusive situation exactly when they should accept an apology. Until the victim is completely removed from abusive situation and has had time to process what’s happened on their own, what looks like beneficial forgiveness can actually enable the abuse cycle to continue. When the exchange of verbal apology and forgiveness allows abuse to continue it defeats the purpose and benefit of the forgiveness, which is to lessen the harm done to the victim… Forgiveness is renewable and not the same thing as trust which can be lost forever… If someone’s been a victim of bullying at the hands of Mark Driscoll, for example, they are under no obligation to ever trust him again.”

3.  Grace does not require remaining silent about bullying and abuse.

Whenever I write about this topic, I get a flood of responses from people who say I’m being too divisive. Why should the Church air its dirty laundry when it comes to abuse? Why should we call out bullying behavior in our brothers and sisters in Christ? Won’t that hurt our reputation in the world? Won’t the world see us “bickering” with one another and be put off by Christianity?

But confronting bullying and abuse is not “bickering.” It’s the right thing to do. It’s standing in solidarity with the very people Jesus taught us to prioritize—the suffering, the marginalized, the vulnerable. When it comes to injustice, a far more important question to me than “What will the world think if they see us disagreeing?” is “What will the world think if they don’t?” We don’t protect our witness to the world by hiding abuse. We protect our witness by exposing it, confronting it, stopping it. Defending the defenseless is an essential (and biblical) part of our calling as followers of Jesus. We don’t just abandon it when the bully happens to be a Christian. 

As Christians, our first impulse should be to protect and defend the powerless, not the powerful, and yet too often, the reverse is the case. 

“The greatest failure of the church/Christian organizations when it comes to responding to abuse is institutional self-protection,” explains Boz Tchividjian, founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.). “Too often Christian institutions have been willing to sacrifice the individual human soul in exchange for the protection of their own reputation.   What makes such responses even more heinous is that they are often justified in the name of ‘protecting the name of Christ.’ Such a justification is nothing but a pious attempt at self-protection.”

4.  Forgiveness and grace do not preclude justice or demand superficial reconciliation

Desmond Tutu, who is a bit of an expert on forgiveness, wrote,  “True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

It’s hard not to see the vague and generalized public apologies that have become a part of our cultural discourse as anything but attempts at superficial reconciliation. And when outsiders demand that those who experienced the full force of those wrongs simply accept public apologies and forgive, it only makes things worse. While forgiveness can certainly happen without repentance and mutual trust, I’m not so sure that reconciliation can happen, or should be demanded, without repentance and mutual trust. And true healing is messy, meandering, and hard, not something that can happen with a press release or that can be dictated by outside observers. 

Similarly, forgiveness does not preclude justice, truth-telling, and accountability. Far too many churches prefer to handle conflict and even abuse “in house,” often glossing over the suffering of the victims in an effort to jump ahead to forgiveness and reconciliation without holding abusers/bullies accountable for their actions. We saw this play out tragically in the case of Sovereign Grace Ministries, where church leaders failed to report the abuse of children to the authorities and so most of the victims were denied justice, or saw justice severely delayed.

Zach Hoag wrote a fine piece on this not long ago, arguing that “the gospel is not antithetical to justice, as some superficial presentations have insisted. Instead, the gospel is a holistic work of restoration that includes grace and forgiveness from God for even the vilest actions – but always, only received in the midst of a genuine process of repentance and change, all while consequences and boundaries are enforced to protect innocent people.”

When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, he vowed to forgive.  He did not, however, vow to stop talking about injustice. 

In conclusion, Christians must find a way to teach radical forgiveness, undeserved grace, and restorative reconciliation without perpetuating and excusing bullying and abuse. It breaks my heart to think that a word meant to be so sweet and so powerful to followers of Jesus—grace—will forever be regarded by some of the most vulnerable among us with shame and fear because we failed to act wisely and with courage. 

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Christians and the Struggle to Report Child Abuse

I recently came across a legal alert from a Christian organization that directs pastors who learn of suspected child abuse to first conduct their own internal investigation “to decide whether the situation requires reporting to the authorities.”  Yikes!

As I work with churches and other Christian institutions, I often encounter professing Christians who struggle with whether they should first report suspected child abuse to the civil authorities.   As above, they are often directed to report abuse suspicions to leadership who then decide whether or not to involve the authorities. Double yikes!!

A church elder once told me that if he received a disclosure of child sexual abuse, his first response would be to interview the alleged victim. His rationale was that he wanted to “be sure that the allegations are legitimate before reporting to the police and ruining the man’s reputation”.  When asked what training he had to conduct a child forensic interview, the man was silent.  When asked whether he wanted the responsibility to determine the validity of a very serious felony, he started to shrink back in his chair.  I then asked whether he was prepared to violate mandated reporting laws.  Fortunately, the elder got my point, changed his opinion, and acknowledged his need to learn more about child sexual abuse.  An issue often at the heart of this critical struggle is whether the Church is obligated to subject itself to the laws of man when it believes that it is capable to address the sin “in-house”.

Police Tape - photo courtesy of Ian Britton via Flickr

Police Tape – photo courtesy of Ian Britton

Let’s make sure we all understand one important truth, child sexual abuse is both a sin AND a serious crime.  In order to effectively carry out its responsibility of protecting children and punishing perpetrators, all 50 states have laws that mandate certain citizens to report suspected neglect or abuse of children. Violation of mandated reporting laws not only fails to protect children, but also enables the perpetrator to avoid criminal prosecution.  Scripture says, For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good (Romans 13:4).  This clearly indicates that a central purpose of civil government is to do good. If that is the case, can there be any greater good carried out by civil government than to punish citizens who violate laws designed to protect society’s most vulnerable members?  In order to carry out this good, the authorities must be notified of the alleged offense.  Governments are incapable of protecting little ones and punishing offenders if its citizens remain silent in the face of such evil.

Besides biblical and legal grounds for reporting suspected abuse to authorities, there are also practical reasons to do so.  The government has the exclusive authority to unilaterally remove children from guardians who are inflicting physical and/or emotionally harm.   However, this can’t happen if the authorities are not notified of the suspected maltreatment. Oftentimes, a child’s very survival is dependent upon whether we take the initiative and report.   There should be little debate within the Christian community that the protection and survival of children is a God ordained responsibility that we cannot neglect or excuse.

Why do some churches and Christian organizations seem to struggle with encouraging members to report the suspected abuse of a child?   At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect. It is a fear of losing the “good reputation” of a ministry, it is a fear of losing ministry donors, it is the fear of losing congregation members, it is a fear of losing a ministry altogether.  All such “fears” are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may “damage the reputation of Christ”.  Do you see the great tragedy?  It is a fear fueled by protecting self. This has nothing to do with Jesus.

The Gospel tells Christians that our identity is in Christ alone, and that our reputation and all that we possess belongs to Him.  Another way of putting it is that apart from Christ’s accomplishment, we have no reputation and we possess nothing.    This Gospel-centered perspective gives us great freedom to confess, confront and expose sin without fear of earthly consequences.   This Gospel-centered perspective liberates us to sacrifice personal and institutional reputations if doing so protects and preserves the lives of His little ones. Isn’t that what God did for us?  He sacrificed His reputation, His supporters, His ministry, and even His very own life in order to protect and redeem.  This Gospel centered perspective should drive us to expend ourselves in protecting children, regardless of the consequences to our church, ministry, or our very own lives.

The next time someone tells you that reporting suspected abuse of children may “hurt the reputation of Christ”, tell them to stop protecting themselves. Tell them that the reputation of Jesus is reflected in how we love and protect children.  Tell them that the reputation of Jesus is only damaged when we turn away and leave grievous sin alone in the darkness of silence.

 

ABOUT BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN

“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also a Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. Boz is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham. He is a graduate of Stetson University and Cumberland School of Law (Samford University).

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Citizen Participation in Budgeting

Image result for city budgetsCitizen participation is seen as a way to reduce the level of citizen distrust in government, and to educate people about government activities. The goal is for citizens to have an active role in decisions and not just be passive “consumers” of government services. This is made difficult by barriers to participation such as lack of knowledge of government, public perceptions that they do not have access or their opinions are unwanted, and citizen apathy and lack of time (National Academy of Public Administration, 1999).

However, the positive effects of participation have been demonstrated. Citizens in cities with more participation have been found to be less cynical about local government (Berman, 1997). The city of Dayton, Ohio uses community boards to improve neighborhoods. Participation benefits have been reported by both participants (Kathlene & Martin, 1991) and public officials (Watson, Juster & Johnson, 1991).

Advantages of participation vary by the type of mechanism used. Public meetings are open to all, but turnout is often low and attendees might not be representative of the community.  Advisory committees can help individuals gain expertise in a given area, but may be time-consuming and may not be representative of the public (Kweit & Kweit, 1987). More intensive techniques, such as citizen panels, may be useful in major policy issues. In general, researchers have concluded that participation is most beneficial when it occurs early in the process so that it can actually affect decisions, when it is two-way deliberative communication rather than simply one-way information sharing (Kathlene & Martin, 1991), and when the mechanisms are designed around the purpose for participation (Thomas, 1995).

Interest in citizen participation has also included the public budgeting process, where important policy and resource allocation decisions are made. One study of budget practices across various types of local governments found extensive use of public hearings and detailed budget documents to be useful in informing the public, gaining insight into public issues, and reducing overall spending (O’Toole, Marshall & Grewe, 1996).

As Nauvoo moves into a new budget planning and review period, citizen participation is critical to ensuring a budget that is responsible, and meets the needs of Nauvoo’s citizens.

 

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New Sophisticated Phone Scam Targets Illinois Residents

FILE - Phone

Illinois News Network

A new round of sophisticated phone scams in Illinois threaten to turn potential victims over to law enforcement.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about automated calls from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service. The call threatens to send law enforcement out to arrest the victim for owing money to the government and that they must call a seemingly local number to resolve it. The fake agent can then give a phony badge number or even give the caller the last four digits of their Social Security number to convince the caller that they’re authentic.

“One of the easiest ways to spot a scam call is when the first thing they say is, ‘we’re going to arrest you,’” IRS Spokesman Michael Devine said. “That’s not how the IRS works.”

 The IRS doesn’t work with local law enforcement in that manner.

It also doesn’t take Amazon gift cards.

“They want the money either by prepaid gift card or by wire transfer,” Devine said, adding that the IRS will make first contact by mail.

The sheriff’s office and IRS offer the following tips to avoid becoming a phone scam victim:

  • Never give personal information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers, over the phone.

  • Legitimate IRS agents and law enforcement agencies do not ask that payments be made via pre-paid debit cards.

  • In some cases, the phone numbers may appear to be from legitimate agencies due to phone number spoofing applications. If this is the case, call that agency to determine if there is a legitimate reason to contact you. Do not use the phone number the caller gives you.

Devine said the calls will often move from one area code to the next so that the callback number looks to be coming from nearby. His advice: just hang up.

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When Children Disclose Sexual Abuse

By Jane Lefkowitz, LICSW

Many parents and caregivers (and some professionals) may still be in the dark about how to respond to a child’s disclosure of being sexually abused. This article is intended for professionals to share with parents who may need resources after their child has disclosed sexual abuse.

Image result for supporting children of abuse

A child’s disclosure of sexual abuse is daunting. As a parent, try and remain calm. Don’t “overquestion” the child, demand details, minimize information, overreact to the disclosure, criticize, or place blame on the child. Listen to the child and respect his or her privacy. Support the child and his or her decision to disclose the sexual abuse, no matter what the child says. Express support because a child needs to know he or she has done nothing wrong, that the situation was the offender’s fault, not the child’s.

Immediately seek appropriate medical care for the child, including a physical exam. Notify law enforcement and appropriate authorities and social services organizations, such as child protective services, as soon as possible. Seek counseling for the child and the family.

Posttraumatic Stress 
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in sexually abused children include difficulty sleeping, irritability or becoming easily angered, being easily startled at noises, difficulty concentrating, and recurring physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches.

Children who have been sexually abused often struggle to distinguish new, safer situations from traumatic ones they have already endured. Some children “keep going back to the trauma” and some also overreact to what has happened to them.

Some children may avoid anything that reminds them of the sexual abuse, as they fight to keep negative thoughts, feelings, and images from returning. Children “forget” some of the worst parts of sexual abuse while still reacting to reminders of those very moments. Some children’s bodies remain “on alert.”

Posttraumatic stress reactions are influenced by age, developmental maturity, and experience. Very young children who have been sexually abused often are passive and quiet, easily alarmed, and less secure when they experience the failure of being protected from such abuse. They may be more fearful, especially with regard to separations and new situations. If a parent sexually abused the child, the child becomes confused as to where to find protection and where there is a threat.

Fear quickly interferes with recent learning. A child may start wetting the bed or revert to baby talk.

Children often keep going over what could have stopped the sexual abuse from happening and how the situation could have been different. They can develop fears connected to the original danger and may have fears of the sexual abuse recurring, which results in the children avoiding activities in which they would like to participate.

Children may alternate between shy or withdrawn behavior and unusually aggressive behavior. Thoughts of revenge are at times unresolvable. Sleep patterns may be disrupted. Children may move around restlessly in their sleep, talk, call out, and wake up tired. The lack of restful sleep interferes with mood, daytime concentration, and attention. Studying may become difficult because they may be on high alert for any perception of danger, real or not.

Adolescents are particularly challenged by posttraumatic stress reactions from sexual abuse. They are embarrassed by bouts of fear and exaggerated physiological responses. They believe they are unique in their pain and suffering. These reactions can result in isolation.

Adolescents try to get rid of unwanted emotions and physical responses by using alcohol and drugs. Sleep disturbances can remain hidden in late-night studying, television watching, and partying. Thoughts of revenge added to adolescents’ usual feelings of invulnerability are a dangerous mix.

Brain Changes
The brain initiates major hormonal changes in puberty. Some of these changes begin earlier in children who are sexually abused during preadolescence. An important set of hormones helps us deal with danger and stress. In a way, the brain and the body talk with each other through these hormones to help prepare us to act in the face of danger and return to normal behavior when the danger is over.

Sexual abuse interferes with emotional maturity. Very young children are learning to identify feelings and emotions with the help of their parents. During sexual abuse, intense fear easily overwhelms young children’s beginning efforts to manage emotions.

Children are learning to differentiate and manage more difficult emotions. Children learn to distinguish being a little scared and angry from being very scared and angry. The intensity and speeding up of emotions blur these differences and intensity of emotions. Children clamp down on their emotional lives, fearing everyday emotions will get the best of them.

Children are aware of the difference between what they feel inside and what they feel they can say. Shame and guilt may lead adolescents to secretiveness about their feelings. Feelings of revenge interfere with efforts to manage aggressive feelings in a constructive, rule-abiding way.

Adolescents are very aware of the social stigma attached to their experience of sexual abuse. Adolescents may thrust themselves into altruistic activities, draw back into an emotional shell, or sometimes do both.

Why Self-Destruction? 
If children feel comfortable enough to come forward with the abuse, aren’t they already showing signs of being confident enough to get the help they need and move forward? Yes and no. Revealing the abuse is a huge step. How the child is allowed to express the confusion, sadness, anger, and other emotions tied to the event determines what kind of emotional health they will have in the future.

Research shows that most victims are abused by someone they know, which only makes a bad situation worse. The closer the relationship between the perpetrator(s) and the victim(s) and group memberships (e.g., the abuser is a family member, fellow churchgoer, an authority figure, someone of the same gender), the more likely they are to face conditions of divided loyalty. A child’s situation will lead to self-protective strategies such as silence, secrecy, and denial.

Let children know they owe absolutely no loyalty to someone who has hurt them. Reassure them that what happened was not their fault, you believe them, you are proud of them for telling you (or another person), and you are there to keep them safe. Stressing how much you love them and how nothing can change that will go a long way toward giving children a feeling of stability.

Contacting the police and department of social services is easier said than done if the perpetrator is a family member, but a parent’s responsibility is to their minor child. Does this open up the possibility of your family being broken? Since the abuse has already occurred, the family is already torn apart. Keeping the issue under wraps does not change that and only allows for more abuse to occur (whether in the family or with a victim outside the family) and tells your child that you just can’t bear to see the abuser punished.

Starting to Heal
Healthy activities normalize children’s daily routine following a sexual abuse disclosure. Physical activity, sensory awareness, getting a pet, reconnecting with friends, joining religious and social groups, and participating in neighborhood and community events are helpful.

Fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when professional help isn’t received. This is known as complex PTSD. Potential friends and mates are kept at bay, and relationships aren’t fully realized. Survivors go through life disconnected from people and feeling isolated. The more extensive the trauma and the earlier it takes place, the more severe the effects can be.

The National Association of Social Workers has a chapter in each state with a social worker referral service, which can help you to find a local social worker/therapist. The American Psychological Association will do the same for psychologists, along with the American Mental Health Counselor’s Association for licensed mental health counselors.

The best methods of healing for any sexual abuse survivor are based on mending the victim from the inside out, and this is done in many ways with some methods that are traditional (one-on-one psychotherapy) and others that might be more alternative.

Traumatized children need extra support and help identifying their feelings. Toddlers and preschoolers have trouble using words expressing emotions such as frustration, sadness, and anger. Activities in therapy help this age group identify these feelings and emotions. Soon, they identify two or three feelings at once and use them all in a sentence.

These children do well in play therapy, a technique therapists use to communicate with children using children’s toys and games. Usually it’s much easier for a child to open up when distracted and/or feeling safe in the context of another activity. Older children do better talking with a therapist in a dynamic setting, such as going for a walk, playing basketball, or going fishing rather than sitting in an office.

Self-soothing techniques help quiet children. Children respond to proven evidence-based strategies called sensory integration. Sensory integration techniques engage different senses and encourage the processing of sensory information. Swinging, riding a bicycle, or rocking in a rocking chair are techniques for helping children to develop self-soothing methods. Yoga, creative arts, journaling, aromatherapy, and light therapy are other sensory integration methods.

Biofeedback teaches children how their body works. If children know their triggers for anxiety attacks, they may be able to prevent those attacks. By learning to recognize personal triggers, a child can help prevent a panic attack by adjusting his or her breathing, learning mediation, or focusing on a single object in the room until the anxiety subsides.

Natural supports include neighbors and friends and getting involved in sports or hobbies based on the child’s strengths and talents, such as pottery, horseback riding, writing, singing, or mechanics.

Lastly, preparation and reconnection is at least partly achieved by bringing the perpetrator to justice. Police are mandated to file charges against the abuser, so minor victims never have to make that tough choice or feel their voice was not heard by seeing their abuser not held accountable for his or her actions.

There is hope that survivors of sexual abuse will go on to have healthy and productive lives. The key is accessing the right kind of help.

From Social Work Today

— Jane Lefkowitz, LICSW, is a case manager in the children’s division of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

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As a male survivor of child sexual abuse, I need you to know my story

Tim Verity was sexually abused as a child
Tim Verity was sexually abused as a child 
CREDIT: CLARA MOLDEN/THE TELEGRAPH

had always known what happened to me as a child. I was eight when the abuse finally stopped but I had vivid dreams reliving the experiences for years. When I realised their significance at 15 they quickly turned to nightmares, turning my life upside down. Now, at 32, I have secured the conviction of the man responsible and finally found some measure of peace. By telling my story, I hope to help other survivors do the same.

I grew up in a happy, middle class home; the son of a doctor and a nurse, loving parents who worked hard to provide for me. I was a precocious child with a wayward streak, never shy about vocalizing my thoughts or confronting figures in authority.

It happened on weekend visits to a relative’s house during the early 1990’s. The woman, who I called ‘auntie’, made sugar mice as treats for me. Her adoptive son Neil, an overweight, moustachioed man then in his mid-twenties, would withhold the sweets and use them to entice me to perform sexual acts on him, as well as keeping quiet about the assaults he would carry out on me, behavior we would today label ‘grooming’.

The abuse occurred on multiple occasions over a period of a few years. For a long time I told myself, ‘it wasn’t that bad, other people have been through far worse’. What is important to me, more than any salacious details, is the profound devastation it caused.

 

Reading about other survivors was a huge source of support for me over the years, which is why I want to share my story as widely as possible

Many survivors go through decades of their lives blocking these memories or are unable to process what they mean, only for the realization to emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. For me, it took the rape of a friend when I was 15 to understand that what had happened wasn’t a normal part of growing up. This revelation turned me, almost overnight, from a happy-go-lucky class clown to a deeply troubled young man.

My mental health deteriorated rapidly and nightmares stopped me from sleeping. I experienced depression, anxiety, overwhelming emotions and elements of psychosis, kick-starting a pattern of shame, self-loathing and self-destructive behavior that continued to follow me throughout my life.

I drank heavily to cope with my waking thoughts, which verged on suicidal. I couldn’t cope with being around former friends who I felt had abandoned me and started playing truant from school, eventually dropping out altogether.

My parents had no idea what had happened to their once happy, if argumentative, little boy. They couldn’t cope with my increasingly unhinged and unexplained behaviour. They eventually took the heart-breakingly difficult decision to kick me out of the family home when I turned 16, in 2000.

I found myself homeless in a working class seaside town where I had no friends or family to call on, flitting from Bed & Breakfast accommodation to sleeping rough. I spent my time with all manner of ‘characters’, from asylum seekers to a teenage girl who made her living selling herself.

When I wrote to my parents to explain what I had been through as a child, their attitude changed immediately. They finally understood what had caused my breakdown and we were able to start building back the bridges that had been torn down between us.

I began to function again within society, but the legacy of abuse continued to follow me. One of the most troubling aspects was the idea that I might myself become an abuser. So often we hear that offenders have been abused themselves and in the grasping and twisted logic of my young brain I assumed, like some vampiric infection, I was doomed to eventually become a monster myself.

“One of the most troubling aspects was the idea that I might myself become an abuser.”

This stopped me from wanting children and was one of many factors resulting from abuse that contributed to the breakdown of romantic relationships. Maturity has since taught me that this is nonsense and I know that my experiences will help me to prepare the children I will one day have for the challenges they may face, while protecting in them the innocence that was stolen from me.

When men do speak out, one often avoided subject is arousal during acts of abuse. This is a purely physical response but something which many survivors experience, including myself, and something which can make even our closest loved ones uncomfortable. In the case of male on male abuse it presents a particular set of difficulties, tied up with notions of masculinity and sexuality.

“I strongly believe that the more we are heard, believed and understood, the less power there is for abusers to stifle and coerce potential victims.”

Thankfully more and more survivors are talking about their experiences, including men. Reading about other survivors was a huge source of support for me over the years, which is why I too want to share my story as widely as possible.

I strongly believe that the more we are heard, believed and understood, the less power there is for abusers to stifle and coerce potential victims. We need to be sending the message to people who have survived abuse that they aren’t alone and are not damaged, disturbed or in any way abnormal.

Nothing will ever take away what has happened to us and I will forever have to fight the urge to spiral down into the well of negative feelings and thoughts abuse has left me with, but while the war may continue a defining battle has been won.

(originally published in the The Telegraph, July 5, 2017)
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Heating Safety Tips

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
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There Is a Solution to the Sex Abuse and Harassment Epidemic Unfolding Before Your Eyes

There Is a Solution to the Sex Abuse and Harassment Epidemic Unfolding Before Your Eyes—And You Will Be Surprised at Who Must Step Up to Succeed

Marci A Hamilton

The list keeps growing of powerful men accused of sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. In historical order, just to name the headliners, Bill ClintonFr. Paul ShanleyJerry SanduskyBill CosbyDonald TrumpHarvey WeinsteinRoy MooreAl FrankenJohn Conyers, and Charlie Rose have all faced accusations of this nature. Thank God. This is the moment that will change history, because the “kings” of our culture are being brought to the public square and revealed for what they are–craven abusers of power.

There has been intense media coverage but surprisingly little if any attention paid to the experts on sex abuse, assault and harassment, who could inject facts into the discourse. There is actually a science of child sex abuse and sex assault. Instead, there has been a lot of hand-wringing by those who do not labor in this vineyard, and over-politicization of the issues to the point that you can’t see what you need to see. When a cable news show staffs its “panel of experts” to discuss these cases solely with political reporters and pundits, they are missing the mark. Let’s start by putting some facts about sexual misconduct on the table.

About the Perpetrators: Don’t Trust Your Instincts

This is about power, and Americans typically understand how power operates. To start at the beginning, the United States is based on a basic proposition: assume everyone who has power is likely to abuse it. You can thank James Madison and the other Framers for this time-tested foundation. To be sure, they were discussing the President, Congress, and the courts (which covers Trump, Clinton, Conyers, and Franken) but, let’s face it, the same reasoning applies to the priesthood, college sports, Hollywood, music, and the media.

Each sex abuse, assault, and harassment case is about a man abusing his power over a child, woman, or man who can’t match his influence. Those in the headlines have had astronomical power over their victims, and they exploited it. Despite their power to hire and fire and make or break careers on the merits, they hedonistically grasped for more. Americans are understandably struggling with the “before” and “after” images of these men. There is a cognitive dissonance once their misdeeds become public. It’s not an either-or issue, though: these men are both their talented, successful selves and sex abusers.

It may be natural to trust your instincts about who is a predator, but it is foolhardy. A common response to these allegations is that “it cannot be true” while the person struggles to outfit the image of a powerful or “good” guy with this ugly element. These men want you to continue to be blind to that new revelation. They only get to exercise the power they do by clearing the space around them, either through mass intimidation like Weinstein or by being the “nice guy” like Clinton or Rose. They spent their whole careers persuading you that they are who they appear to be—but in reality they are not. So coming to the truth means you have to abandon your certainty about identifying sexual molesters.

It is heartbreaking when you learn that the formerly lovable Bill Cosby is despicable or that “godly” Roy Moore is in fact the guy Jesus was talking about when he said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6. Yet, only the truth will protect the next child or prevent other victims from piling up. As long as you self-righteously insist you can infallibly read another person’s soul, you are asking for the perverse to harm the vulnerable. To put this another way: sexual predators lie, and they tend to be really good at it.

Ken Lanning, the now-retired FBI expert on child sex abuse, has explained pedophiles in a way that also makes sense for the sexual assaulters and harassers: the reason that these guys have succeeded at harming others is because they earn people’s trust–either through accumulated power or through being the super nice guy. Their trustworthiness creates the access. So the fact that you have known someone “forever” and never seen them do one bad thing is basically irrelevant when it comes to those who sexually abuse, assault, or harass. What they are doing is not done on the street corner for you to see. Your instincts are wrong.

Perpetrators also succeed because they are duplicitous. They live a double life, and are so arrogant that they believe no one will ever know about their “indiscretions.” So when you hear someone like Trump or Moore protesting their innocence in the face of a long line of believable women, you should be thinking more about narcissism and a Messiah complex than doubting these women. The perpetrators fervently believe that they are wonderful men who don’t deserve to be brought down like this—regardless of the sexual misconduct they perpetrated. Their power is boundless, even God-given! In their self-referential world, they have magical powers to treat women and children as objects and to never be held accountable.

If you are still in denial about any of the men mentioned above, you need to re-read the preceding section.

About the Victims: Wading Through Intimidation, Humiliation, and Shame

Victims of sexual misconduct rarely make it up and often cannot come forward immediately. They have been accused by some of fabricating their claims either for publicity or because they are seeking a “pay day.” This is patently ridiculous. First, it is a matter of fact that people rarely make up sexual misconduct. This is a humiliating event, not something you want to announce from the ramparts. And the perpetrators know how to convince their victims that telling others is risky, whether it is the priest telling the kid his parents will go to hell if he tells or Weinstein threatening a young woman’s career prospects. Second, the “pay day” allegations are also just ignorance of the law. The vast majority of these victim’s claims are well beyond the statute of limitations. This is especially true for the harassment victims, whose statutes of limitation are measured in days–180 to 300 days to be precise. They have no legal leverage at this point; they are just trying to do the right thing by telling the public the emperor has no clothes. Even if they were within statute, the point of such claims is to shift the cost of the misconduct from the victim to the one(s) who caused it. That is just fair.

Some Americans also have attacked the victims’ credibility because they took so long to come forward. In reality, though, sexual misconduct victims often do take decades to come forward. In fact, the delay is often an indicator of their truthfulness, ironically enough. All sorts of coping mechanisms get in the way of coming forward earlier, from self-blaming and denial to PTSD and alcohol and drug addiction. This goes back to the toxicity of the power differential. They feel small, ashamed, humiliated, worthless, and intimidated all at once. The misconduct can come to define them in their own minds and lead to a dramatic shift in their self-worth, confidence, and even their career choices. All the while, the powerful abuser struts around in the public square proving his immense worth. And you wonder why it takes victims so long?

About the Context of the Misconduct

One of the reasons that you did not know about all these guys is that they create their conditions to dominate and to disempower the victim in secrecy. It’s not enough that they are already more powerful than the victim; they also like to isolate their prey. Notice how many of the cases you have heard about recently involve the perpetrators’ homea hotel room, or a car. The victims have been lured into places where the perpetrator is in complete control, literally king of his domain. Why? Because they don’t want to be stopped, and, remember, this is a power trip. Trapping the prey is part of the conquest.

The public’s general ignorance of the facts of sexual misconduct– including the characteristics of the predator, the disabilities of the victim, and the secret contexts—has too often betrayed the victims and led to affirmation of the man who will simply do it again. The facts can help turn that around. But lasting change must go beyond attitudes to action.

The Other Factors That Have Created a Vicious Cycle of Seemingly Endless Sexual Misconduct

The public’s ignorance of the facts of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment, and the intimidation and shaming of the victims are not the only reasons sexual misconduct gets buried. Just as importantly, there are the legal mechanisms that drive these claims underground.

First, as discussed above, the statutes of limitation have been inexcusably short. For the children, many states continue to have indefensibly short SOLs. For the women raped years ago, the rape SOLs were short then, and the Supreme Court has made it impossible to give them a second chance at criminal prosecution under Stogner v. CaliforniaAs discussed above, sexual harassment claims are cut off very quickly!

Second, nondisclosure agreements have permitted women to shift the cost of healing from their shoulders to the perpetrators’, but they have had to accept a gag in order to get this much justice. Given their feelings of intimidation and humiliation at the time of signing the agreements, they could easily be persuaded that the nondisclosure mandate is “all for the best.” No one more than the victim wants this to just be over. Moreover, they were usually led to believe that they were the “only one” anyway, so what good was having a bullhorn? Lawyers for the perpetrators routinely—with a straight face—tell the victim she was the very first to report, while having settled dozens more cases just like hers. Weinstein loved these agreements, which gave him carte blanche for the next victim, but he was not the only one. They were also popular with the Catholic bishops and abusers across the spectrum for decades. The defense lawyers advised their offensive clients that this would solve the “problem.”

Third, the insurance companies that were on the hook for the bad behavior of employees actively pushed companies to either rebuff the woman’s claims with hardball tactics or, second best, enter these secret settlements to avoid future liability. Few understand how the insurance industry drives settlements in virtually every sphere, e.g., the employment sphere, as here. Employers have insurance against employee misbehavior, and insurance companies have paid or partially paid many of the settlements in the sexual misconduct arena from the churches to the companies to the media. For them, there has been one value and one value alone: reduce exposure. If that means helping a perp get off and go on to graze for the next victim, their attitude has been “not my problem.”

Thus, the legal system and the greed of the insurance industry have perversely operated to empower abusers of all stripes. To be blunt: a lot of the responsibility for the perpetuation of sexual misconduct lies at the feet of the insurance companies. It’s time they become part of the solution instead.

It Is Time for the Insurance Industry to Find a Moral Compass and Stem This Tide of Sexual Misconduct

There is a systemic solution to the sexual misconduct pandemic, and it requires the insurance industry to step up. The vast majority of these claims are in the civil arena, because so few prosecutions go forward with the “beyond a reasonable doubt standard.” (Prosecutors are elected officials who watch their win-loss ratios closely. The public would be shocked by how few of the cases involving sexual abuse and assault are ever prosecuted despite strong evidence, but that is another column for another day.) That puts the insurance system on center stage due to its power to coerce better practices with the threat of no or escalating coverage. It has been no friend to victims as it has implemented non-disclosure agreements, intimidated victims, and avidly lobbied against statute of limitations reform.

If the industry declines to reform its predator-friendly practices, it’s time for hearings on Capitol Hill, which would supplement the recent hearings to enact legislation and rules to govern sexual harassment in Congress. They should probably happen anyway, but if there is no major insurance reform to solve the problem, there is no choice but to subpoena the executives. In all likelihood, Congress and the state legislatures will need to coerce them to do the right thing. The insurance industry has the power to turn around at least the workplace on these issues if it starts demanding the kind of preventative practices only it can effectively enforce and punishes those who harbor perpetrators with escalating premiums and the threat of no coverage.

With respect to members of Congress, it’s not the insurance world that matters, but rather a corrupt federal system ensconced in federal law. Interestingly, it needs the same fixes as the insurance industry, though, so I will include it in the discussion below.

Here is where we need to start to bring industries, institutions, and Congress into line:

First, non-disclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases violate public policy and should be made unenforceable. While it is reasonable to permit the parties to agree that the settlement number is confidential, the perpetrator and/or entity should not be permitted to gag the victim. Non-disclosure agreements have been the darlings of the insurance companies and a mandatory feature of the federal system. The congressional victim has one route: to enter a lengthy and dysfunctional process at the end of which, if there is a settlement, secrecy is forced on her.

I would expect the insurance industry to sic its lobbyists on members contemplating a paradigm shift in this arena and to fight any bill that neutralizes nondisclosure clauses. But this is one of those instances where the public disclosure is so obviously in the common good that lawmakers need to put cotton in their ears. Besides, perhaps my cynical expectation that the industry (and members of Congress) will fight for nondisclosure agreements to the detriment of the common good is misplaced. One can hope daily scandals will guide the industry and federal government to a moral compass that points toward policies that protect the vulnerable rather than the predators and their complicit institutions.

Second, eliminate the SOLs for sex abuse, assault, and harassment. Let the victims come forward when they are ready, not according to some artificial deadline. 99% of the women who have come forward against the list of men at the start of this article were barred from the judicial process. This is a cause the insurance companies have been fighting for decades—against their better interests. They don’t want SOLs to open up, because more perpetrators and at-fault institutions named, which increases their liability. Yet, it’s better for them to permit the SOLs to be liberalized, because it concretizes their liabilities and makes it possible to demand that a perpetrator be fired so that they can avoid future liability. With short SOLs, the cycle of misconduct, settlement, misconduct, settlement remains in place, which does not serve the industry’s ultimate ends.

Third, insurance companies (and Congress) need to institute workplace rules with teeth that are a pre-condition to coverage and/or service that halt the secrecy spiral:

  • To qualify for coverage or to maintain one’s status in Congress, there should be mandatory training, as in real training conducted by professionals and not in-house people, on the rules of sexual misconduct from abuse and assault to harassment. It should be made clear that no one gets a pass—not the perpetrator and not the bystander, or observer. There should be mandatory reporting internally and to the authorities when a crime has occurred. Reporters must be shielded from retaliation.
  • Employers and Congress should be required to pledge to discharge any employee who has engaged in sexual misconduct, and that determination follows an investigation. Recommendations for other jobs would be required to disclose the sexual misconduct. Failure to disclose would create liability for the company that discharged the predator.
  • Employers and Congress must institute meaningful zero tolerance policies for sexual misconduct that are worth the paper they are written on. Most companies have pro forma policies but in practice, as we have learned, supervisors are wont to ignore allegations if the man serves the organization’s interests, whether it be image, power, or money. If it turns out a company’s supervisor learned about sexual misconduct and ignored it, that should come with the heavy price of steeply increased premiums. The member of Congress who fails to disclose knowledge of sexual misconduct should be subject to mandatory censure.
  • There need to be annual sexual misconduct audits. If there is reason to be suspicious, the insurance company (or relevant committee in Congress) must investigate all allegations with special focus on any cover-up. Results are to be released to the public, not buried.
  • Policies related to off-premises business or institution-related activities need to be tightened up. If the employee is performing work for the organization or in its name off-premises, as was Charlie Rose at his home, the company should be liable for any misconduct and the insurance company on the hook. There need to be rigid rules about work off-premises (other than flex-time when there is no employee interaction). Charlie Rose’s and Weinstein’s off-premises activities couldn’t have happened but for the environment. They weren’t going to parade around nude and uncovered at work.

Fourth, as I discussed here, the defamation laws need to be rewritten to protect the victim who goes public. None of these guys should be permitted to rattle the saber of defamation like Cosby, Trump, or Moore. The first order of business in any such claim should be an expedited proceeding on the facts of the sexual misconduct. If the victim proves the acts occurred to a preponderance of the evidence, the perpetrator should be liable for treble damages and attorneys fees. The remedy will deter such lawsuits except for the most narcissistic predators.

Find a comfortable place to read this holiday weekend, because more sexual abuse, assault, and harassment stories will roll across your Twitter and Facebook news feeds. There will be lots to read. Oh, wait, if you’re one of the guys waiting for the sexual misconduct shoe to drop, I suppose you won’t be that comfortable. Good. Welcome to a world where the vulnerable have a chance at justice.

(This article was originally published on November 22, 2017 on Verdict, Legal Analysis and Commentary from Justia at Justia.com. It is reprinted with permission.)

 

Marci A. Hamilton is the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania; the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of the nonprofit think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect, CHILD USA, and author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com. Her email address is hamilton02@aol.com.

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