Identifiying a Child Molester

My friend posted an article today on Facebook entitled “A Child Molester in My Circle.” I was more than a little unnerved by the article, but to be fair, I think Janet Lansbury makes a good recovery at the end. Your children do need you to talk about good boundaries, abuse, and what to do if they are being abused.

I cannot detract from her article. When you find out someone you know is a child molester, it is shocking. It is appalling. It is heart-breaking. And it is really, truly, completely a real possibility.

Since I lived with a child molester from birth until I was 13, I would like to give you a profile to examine so you know what a child molester looks like. Here goes.

A child molester is either a male or a female. She or he can be poor, middle class, rich, or crazy ridiculous rich. He or she can be Caucasian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Indian, African, or a member of any other nationality. She or he can be straight, gay, bisexual or transgender.  He or she can be short or tall, medium build, heavy set, thin, or average. He or she can have a beard, a mustache, be bald, have curly hair, straight hair, long, short, red, black, brown, purple, yellow, gray, white, orange, or blue.

The career path of a child molest is key. It is an easy and helpful way to identify a child molester. A child molester can be a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, architect, nurse, child care provider, mechanic, airplane pilot, minister, lawyer, judge, bus driver, police officer, grocery store clerk, teacher, counselor, principal, farmer, lumberjack, veterinarian, or magazine editor. She or he can also be retired, unemployed, or a student. He or she can also be another child or young adult.

Religion is also a telling aspect of a child molester’s personality. He or she can be Catholic, Protestant, Quaker, Amish, Mennonite, Moravian, Lutheran, Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, an atheist, or an agnostic.

Do you have a good picture? Can you look at people who pass you on the street and pull your child closer and whisper in his ear, “Don’t go near her. She does bad things to kids.”

And if we take a step back from people we see outside of our homes, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all put in a specific matrix when searching for our partners of what to avoid when choosing a parent for our children. I would like to design a computer program that would send a danger signal to our cell phones so we KNOW we should quickly leave in the middle of the first date. (I have no talent in things technological, but if anyone uses that, I’d love to split the million dollars.)

My mother used to tell me about stranger danger. I was warned about people that might try to pick me up on the way home and if I was to ever be kidnapped, I had to memorize the exit number off the interstate where I lived so I could tell people how to get me home. (Forget knowing my address or what interstate said numbered exit was off of.)

She did not warn me about the monster living in the next room. In this case, because he has been convicted, I can show you the picture of a child molester. I will just post the link so you can choose whether or not to look at his picture. He is a mechanic, with red hair in case you are interested. And to the people who live in the area or rent property from him, keep an eye on your kids. Yes, really, really keep an eye on them.

I apologize for the somewhat understated portrait I’ve painted. I wish I could give you an exact definition and a specific way to recognize child molesters. You may not even be able to imagine how much I wish I could give you a picture.

My best advice to keep yourself, your children, nieces, nephews, students, or anyone you care about safe from child molesters is to pay attention. Listen to what your kids say. Watch interactions between kids and child care workers, relatives, teachers, doctors, whomever. If a person seems to be wanting to spend time alone with a child, or treat them in a special manner, be aware of that. Ask questions, of the child and the adult. The uncle who seems to hold on in the hug just too long, then wants to take your child to a movie alone – probably not the best idea.

If you are bathing your child and he or she has a rash or bruising around his or her genitals, a trip to the doctor is probably in order. If, as in the article, your child tells you that someone is touching them in their private area, ask more about that. Try to stay calm and ask exploratory, not leading questions. Even if the child then says, just kidding, more likely than not, they are not kidding.

The people that act suspiciously may not be doing anything wrong. They may be perfectly innocent people who just care about kids. But since child molesters aren’t visibly distinguishable from everyone else, it is your job to do your very best not to terrify your children, but realistically watch out for them and encourage them to tell you if something doesn’t feel right.

It is hard to trust yourself, especially if you are a survivor of abuse, but please try. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

We would love to hear ways you actively encourage your children to talk to you and how you actively listen to them. And if you have suggestions, how have you taught yourself and your kids to be aware of what and who is around them.

The Right to Remain Silent

Recently, Jackie and I spent some time together and had a great chat.  Our conversations always lead me to discover or re-discover powerful insights.  I know our talks are good for her too.  If we lived closer, I would choose to spend time with her much more often.

One of the things we talked about last week was how sometimes we have to choose not to spend time with family members, even when we struggle with the societal expectations around family interaction.  This can be a special struggle during the holiday season.  Many of us wrestle with feeling this time of year that we are obligated to set aside our own needs for the benefit of family.  This not a simple dilemma and there are no perfect answers.  If you are facing decisions on who to interact (or not) with, which family gatherings to attend, or how best to protect yourself and/or your children at the holidays, remember to breathe deeply, take one step at a time and forgive yourself extravagantly.

Here are some common myths that trip me up in this category and some truths I need to keep reminding myself:

Myth: Family traditions deserve to be followed. Relatives have a right to see all of their family together.

Truth: There’s nothing sacred about traditions.  They were created to serve the family, not the other way around.  And relatives earn the privilege of family connection.

Myth: I’ve always ________ before.  If I choose not to this year I will have to explain myself.

Truth: We all choose who we spend time with (even who we speak to) from minute to minute, based on lots of factors.

Myth: If I agree to participate, I am obligated to agree to the whole package.

Truth: We all pick and choose what parts of holiday gatherings work for us.

Myth: I owe everyone an answer if I don’t want to attend or participate.

Truth: I have the right to remain silent.

Survivors of abuse were at some point put in the position of their own needs and feelings and dignity being set aside for someone else’s desires.  It’s common for many of us to keep putting our own needs aside.  This year, as the holidays approach, try to take each moment as an opportunity to choose what is good for you.   Pick and choose what nourishes and comforts you and say no thanks to things and people that subtract from, rather than add to your life.  And if you choose incorrectly, forgive yourself extravagantly and go on.

Finding The Courage

If you haven’t seen this video already, we commend it to you. It’s not your fault and your are not alone.

Becoming a survivor happens in many ways, in many different times. It’s different for each person. If you never tell, that does not mean you are not a survivor. It means you learned to heal in a different way. In this video, the young woman… decided to tell, and the teacher decided to do the right thing and believe her. We wish every survivor found this kind of support.

Finding The Courage To Tell

Pressure, Hints, and Reflections

I know a lot of people right now who are struggling. They are struggling with jobs, self-image, getting unclear direction from the people who are supposed to “know.” They get mixed messages from doctors, lawyers, specialists, friends and family. This does not include the struggles that live in general puts on people, environmental factors, economic factors and peer pressure.

We encounter people every day in our lives who have pressure on them and are struggling with life. For some reason, we try to offer them grace and say we don’t know the whole situation so we should not think badly about them or give them a hard time. We do that without even thinking.

How often, though, are we struggling and feeling pressure and don’t give ourselves that same gift? We think there’s something wrong with us that we can’t find a way out of the pressure chamber we live in. If I could just work harder… If I could just be better… If I could just handle this differently…

There are some people in our lives that thrive on the pressure. They do well no matter what. There are some who thrive on the drama created by the pressure. They thrive at feeling bad. Most of us, however, are stuck in that place where we can see what we want in others’ reactions but can’t figure it out for ourselves. We wonder how our friend can deal with so many things. We admire that strength and tenacity in them, but wonder why we don’t have it in ourselves.

(Here’s a little hint. You do.)

In oysters, pressure and irritation creates pearls. In coal, it creates diamonds. In people, it creates anxiety, hopelessness and depression. When we get anxious, hopeless and depressed, we shut down. We stop doing the things we enjoy because we don’t enjoy them as much. We don’t go out with friends. We hole up and try to fortify ourselves. You know, take time to, find that “stiff upper lip,” but what we really feel is just, sad. Then our lip quivers. We aren’t supposed to let our lips quiver either. Isn’t the saying never let them see you sweat? Or cry? Or be sad? Or be who we really are?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that. If I’m sad, I can’t fake it anymore. Sometimes I get sad or scared. I cry at commercial about how much people care about each other. It is much more real and human to show the emotions than to shove them down and not show who you are. Other people affect me. There pain isn’t mine, but I feel it. I feel their sadness. I feel their joy. That makes me human, like everyone else.

It isn’t fair to me, or you, or anyone else, to have to hide who we are. It is a long process to find who we are, but it is well worth the journey. People will think you’re weird or strange or crazy, but they are going to anyway. So wouldn’t it feel better to be yourself than have to hide it and feel miserable about it?

(Here’s another hint. It does feel better.)

So, today I am asking you to do something. It requires a little effort and might be uncomfortable, but please try it. I think you’ll be happy with the results.

I’m asking you to look at one friend, family member or celebrity you admire. Ask yourself what is the one thing about that person that you admire most. Please choose just one thing and start with that. Once you go through this, it might be more easy and less overwhelming to find another thing. For now, though, just start with one. Write that one word on a piece of paper. Put the piece of paper somewhere you will see it every day, like your bathroom mirror.  If you are familiar with a photoshopping program or picmonkey or some other site to make the word more attractive than just on a sheet of paper, that is fine as well. Then look at the word every day.

It is my guess that the quality you choose will be something you wish you had. (It is also my guess that you really do have it, but the societal garbage has buried it and you don’t see it anymore.) I hope you find it in yourself, or if not the exact quality you see in someone else, you find something totally awesome about yourself that you didn’t realize or where afraid to show.

You deserve a life covered in epic awesomesauce. Why? Because you are awesome, even if you don’t yet believe it. Jennifer and I believe it. And hope that you will too.

So please, try this little exercise. We’d love to hear what you discover.