December 23, 2011

The disturbing reason why a growing number of parents are being falsely accused of shaking their babies to death

Mary shared this with me this am, and feel that this is something we should put up.  This is information that every woman needs, along with every family out there with small children.  I know of a few cases that this actually brings information into question myself, and feel that this information needs to be spread.  In a world where more and more are insuring the welfare of our children and that they are not abused, information like this also needs to be out there and to insure that parents aren’t put through a living hell when their child dies or is injured by something such as rickets…

 

Standing together in the dock of the world’s most  famous criminal court stood two confused and sobbing parents, accused of the worst offence imaginable: beating and shaking their own baby to death.

According to prosecutors, four-month-old Jayden Wray was gripped and twisted so brutally that bones throughout his body shattered, while vicious blows to his head damaged his brain.

The injured baby was rushed to hospital where doctors said he could not survive. Three days later, paediatricians at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London switched off his life-support machine.

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Riddled by ricketts: Jayden Wray's parents were cleared of causing his death after doctors had failed to diagnose the serious childhood bone disease

So certain were doctors and police that Jayden had been hurt by his parents that the couple were barred from their son’s bedside before he died.

They were not allowed to attend his hospital christening and lost the chance to say their last goodbyes.

This horrific story unfolded over six weeks in a panelled courtroom of London’s Old Bailey. Yet today, Jayden’s father and mother — Rohan, 22, and 19-year-old Chana — are free. The case against them was thrown out ten days ago after 60 medical and forensic experts at their murder trial disagreed over what really killed their son.

Finally, the judge told the jury to find the couple not guilty because Jayden’s post-mortem revealed he had rickets, a serious childhood bone disease which had once been eradicated in this country nearly a century ago.

Rickets is linked to a lack of vitamin D, which the body synthesises from sunlight or absorbs from eating foods such as oily fish and eggs.

The disease causes the skulls of children to weaken and their bones to easily break — symptoms which closely mimic those of a deliberately shaken baby.

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Rohan and Chana were found not guilty of murdering their baby Jayden Wray, and it was discovered he had ricketts

Hospital doctors in Jayden’s case, it  transpired, had missed a vital clue when the baby got sick and then died: his mother, Chana, had so little vitamin D in her body that Jayden did not receive the vitamin while inside her womb or when she breastfed him.

After the case, the Wrays’ lawyer Jenny Wiltshire said: ‘These parents have been through hell. They can now grieve for the son they loved and cherished.’

Yet theirs is a case which has profound implications for all families. For it serves to highlight a growing medical problem — one which is not only leading to false allegations of abuse against innocent parents, but which is endangering the health of children right across Britain.

As Jenny Wiltshire said: ‘The real criminality here is that if the money spent on bringing this case had been used to tell all breastfeeding mothers to take vitamin D supplements, Jayden’s death wouldn’t have occurred.

‘Rickets, which is now back to epidemic proportions, would have been wiped out.’

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Chana gave birth to Jayden when she was 16

Indeed, a growing number of experts believe that Britain is in the grip of a childhood rickets crisis on a scale not seen since Victorian times, when children working long hours in the factories and the mines were particularly vulnerable to the ailment.

The condition was largely eliminated after World War II, when the government provided free orange juice enriched with vitamin  D and cod liver oil for every child in the country.

The difference today is that it is not only a disease of the poor. Those living in middle-class homes are just as likely to suffer from the condition — notorious for causing bowed legs and knock-knees — as those from the poorest inner-city estates. 

Doctors at Southampton General Hospital recently found 40 per cent of children from all backgrounds being treated in the orthopaedic department had a shortage of vitamin D in their bodies — and were, therefore, prone to rickets.

The crisis, said orthopaedic consultant Nicholas Clarke, was ‘reminiscent of 17th-century England.’

The statistics speak for themselves: cases of childhood rickets have increased five-fold in 15 years.

Last year, more than 760 babies and youngsters were admitted to  hospital showing signs of the condition. At the same time, recent research among primary care trusts found that the number of children under ten admitted to hospital with rickets leapt by 140 per cent between 2001 and 2009.

Doctors say the alarming rise is often due to today’s children spending large periods of time indoors  playing computer games and watching television.

At the same time, many parents worry about exposing their children to sunlight — due to the repeated warnings about skin cancer — and cover them in high-protection creams, which impede the body’s ability to produce vitamin D and, in turn, to grow strong bones.

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See the light: A lack of sunlight can lead to the development of ricketts in children

If children are deprived of the  vitamin, they are at great risk of developing rickets and their immune system is weakened. A diet of junk food, instead of vitamin D‑rich meat, liver, eggs and oily fish, is also blamed for the crisis.

As Gillian Killiner, of the British Dietetic Association, said recently: ‘We have taken it for granted  that skin cancer is the big problem and overlooked the vitamin D  side of things.

‘Children are covered up with sunblock, T-shirts and hats, and that can be important — but it can go too far. We don’t have a lot of sun in this country, and in winter you are likely to be lacking vitamin D. If you haven’t built up enough in the summer, that’s going to be a certainty.’

But until now, few have pointed out one of the most worrying aspects of the crisis: babies with a vitamin D deficiency display remarkably similar symptoms to those who have been deliberately shaken by their parents or carers. This may have led to other controversial criminal trials of parents accused of harming their children when — like the Wrays — they were completely innocent.

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Stuck indoors: Children should be encouraged to put the games consoles away and get outside (posed by model)

Earlier this year, Nafisa and Mohammed Karolia, of Blackburn, Lancashire, were imprisoned for child cruelty despite their defence team arguing that vitamin D depletion led to their baby daughter’s injuries and subsequent death from broncho-pneumonia, aged seven months, in 2009.

The Karolias were accused of inflicting many terrible injuries on the child, including breaking her leg, her arm, and her rib. The police and prosecution lawyers said they had been caused by twisting, shaking and rotating the child’s limbs.

However, a very senior paediatric consultant who has examined evidence given at the trial has told the Mail: ‘It is very likely that there was an issue here with low levels of vitamin D in the mother and her daughter. But it appears that when it was mentioned in court, the prosecution nearly had a fit because they insisted this child had been shaken and abused.’

Now one coroner has become so alarmed by the rise of rickets that he has demanded the Government take action.

North London Coroner Andrew Walker sent a written notice to the Department of Health, under Rule 43 of the Coroner’s Rules, saying mothers must be warned of the dangers of not taking the vitamin D supplements.

The notice requires the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to respond within 56 days, detailing what action his department plans to take.

Mr Walker acted after presiding over the inquest into the death of three-month-old Milind Agarwal. The baby was taken to the doctor this summer with a suspected viral infection and was sent home with saline nasal drops. A later call to another doctor by his parents resulted in them being told to give him paracetamol. 

When Milind became critically ill at 10pm one evening in July this year, his parents called an ambulance and he was taken to Northwick Park Hospital in North London. A few hours later, he died of septic inflammation of the heart and associated problems.

An eminent paediatric pathologist and a leading authority on signs of child abuse, Dr Irene Scheimberg, who conducted a post-mortem examination on baby Milind, told the inquest that vitamin D deficiency may have accelerated the baby’s illness because his immune system was weakened.

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Sad: Jayden Wray died at Great Ormond Street - Sue Reid is urging for ricketts in children to be more closely monitored

She said afterwards: ‘In the 21st century, in a civilised country, this is outrageous. It is only the tip of the iceberg.’

The highly respected Dr Scheimberg, based at the Royal London Hospital, added: ‘I hope that the doctors treating sick children now open their eyes to this vitamin deficiency and the problems it causes. It is a really serious issue and a matter of justice for parents who are accused of abusing their children.’

The parents of Milind, who live in Wembley, London, agreed to talk to the Mail about what happened. They do not want their real first names used in this article to protect their family’s privacy. Both parents, whom we have called Gayen and Shrina, were born in India.

Research has shown that those with darker complexions process vitamin D from sunlight much more slowly than people with paler skin
and are, therefore, prone to deficiency — and more likely to pass it on to their babies.

When I met the bereaved couple this week at their small flat, they were still raw with grief about their baby’s death. He was born in  March, a wonderful first son.

A slight muscle weakness in his heart, discovered soon after his birth, was corrected with a simple procedure, and in June, Milind was given a clean bill of health.

‘We are talking about him now because it is important for other families,’ says Gayen, a computer engineer, aged 34.

‘We had no idea that the legacy of Milind would be to help spread the word that vitamin D is essential for all mothers and  their babies.’
Gayen and Shrina sit on the sofa in their neat sitting room. On one shelf are the cuddly toys that lay in the cot beside Milind during his short life.

Jayden had obvious signs of ricketts. It would have left the baby with weak bones, including a weak skull 

They show me his picture, a bright-eyed and smiling child looking straight at the camera. Then they remember his last hours with tears in their eyes.
Says Gayen: ‘He had had a cold, but was sleeping well on the night he died. It was very sudden when he became so ill.

‘Now we know from the coroner that he had an infection, and that the lack of vitamin D in his body meant he could not fight it properly.’

By tragic coincidence, Shrina, 29, had been told she had a vitamin D deficiency two years before Milind was born. She had a pain in her right knee and her local GP put her on vitamin  D tablets. However, as she explains: ‘I had stopped taking them well before I became pregnant. No one, including the GP, the midwife or doctors at Northwick Park Hospital, ever told me to take the pills while I was pregnant or my new son would be in danger.’

Since Milind’s death, she has revisited her GP and had  blood tests. They show that  she has very low levels of the  crucial vitamin.
‘I am now taking pills all the time and trying to get out in the sunshine,’ she explains.

By coincidence, the child pathologist Dr Scheimberg, who unravelled the truth about Milind’s death, also helped clear the parents of Jayden Wray.

The prosecution insisted that Jayden’s injuries to his skull, knee, elbow, shoulder, hip, ankle and wrist could only have been caused by him being intentionally shaken and having his head hit against something hard.

However, a post-mortem examination by Dr Scheimberg discovered Jayden’s ‘obvious sign of rickets. It would have left the baby with weak bones, including a weak skull, and led to a series of fractures’.

She is appalled at the way that these innocent parents have been treated.
‘Some people should be hanging their heads,’ she said.

‘These young parents were stopped from even saying goodbye to their child before he died, and then accused of murdering him.’

One can only hope that their cases will lead to a growing realisation among all parents — and some in the medical profession — about the return of a condition that can be prevented by a simple pill or exposure to sunshine.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2075884/Parents-guard-accusations-babies-shaken-death-continue-grow.html#ixzz1hNls81ae

December 20, 2011

Life Skills: Finding a Place to Live

One of the basic things each person has to do after leaving an abusive situation is find a safe place to live. To some this may seem like a very simple thing to do, while to others it is the cause of a lot of stress. Some people have never had to look for housing by themselves and do not know where to start. If you have never had to do this, you may not even realize that there are deposits and things that will require money up front, and various other things that you need to be aware of.
 
If you have the money and are planning to just buy a house, do your research first. Don’t get caught into a mortgage that you will not be able to afford later on. If you have never bought a house before, talk to friends, family, and co-workers that have bought houses and ask for advice. Whether buying or renting the following may help you some, but is in no way a complete explanation as to what you may need to do.

 
Start at the beginning, where to look? Look in newspapers, internet, and local realty companies, and ask people you know if they know anyone that has a place for rent. Some apartment complexes and realty companies advertise in papers and some do not, so get out the phone book and just call each one listed and see if they having anything available in your size and price range.

 
It is a good idea to always view the place before signing any paperwork. While there check that all the light switches work, the faucets all work, drains are working and make sure the toilets flush without problems. I realize that some of this seems elementary but it is amazing what we forget when stressed and if you are looking for your very first place on your own while also dealing with the other stresses of just leaving an abusive situation you may over look things that will only cause further stress in the future.

 
Depending on what area of the country you live in you may need to check inside the closets and cabinets to make sure there isn’t a mold, dry-rot or termite problem. Look for obvious signs of water damage that may have been caused by a leaking roof or window. You do not want to end up living somewhere that may end up making you regret leaving the abuse.

 
One thing most of us almost always forget to check for is working smoke/fire detectors, and if there is more than one way into and out of the dwelling in case of an emergency. Along those lines if there is a burglar alarm type system in the place ask how much it costs to turn it on and what the monthly payments would be. Some alarm companies will make you sign a term of service agreement where you will have to pay for a certain term even if you move. So make sure you know all of that before getting the alarm system turned on in your name.

 
Ask what the landlord’s rules are concerning sizes and types of pets allowed, and if they require a pet deposit, if you plan to have pets or already do. Some apartment complexes do not allow children either, so if you have kids make sure you aren’t trying to move into one that doesn’t allow children.

 
Some income brackets qualify for housing assistance; ask the organization that you are working with what programs are available in your area and how to find out if you qualify. If you do not qualify or there are no programs in your area it is important that you understand that some realty companies and apartment complexes are going to ask for past rental history and may even check your credit report. In both of those cases if you think there is anything on either of those that would keep them from renting to you, explain briefly what your situation is. Some will go ahead and check anyway but will work something out with you. It never hurts to try!   



Here is a great article that gives some good tips for renters.  It is geared towards college kids, but the main tips will work for anyone getting into a renting situation for the first time.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/16/AR2007031600953.html

One thing they don't mention in that article that is a must is taking pictures of both the inside and outside of your new rental before you move in.  Insure that you get close ups of all trouble areas such as holes in the wall, bad flooring, cracked window or the like.  This is to insure that later on the landlord doesn't try to state that you have done something to the property and not give you your deposit back.  Keep these photos safe just in case they are needed, insuring that you know the date of when you took them.


Please feel free to leave your questions and/or comments in the comment section below.

December 16, 2011

Life Skills: Deposit and Turning on Utilities

Many rentals require you to pay some sort of deposit before moving in. Usually this is a security deposit plus first months rent, or a first and last months rent or some combination. If you are planning to rent from an individual you may want to ask them if they could waive the deposits, and let you pay a little extra each month to start with until you have paid off the deposit. For example: The required deposit is $500 plus the first months rent which is also $500. Ask if you can give only $500 to start with and then pay $600 for the next five months to pay the deposit. After those five months you would then only pay the original rent price of $500.
 
If you have to put the utilities in your name you may be required to pay deposits to hook them up. Try to find this out before signing any rental agreements. You can ask the person you will be renting from which companies cover that area and then call them to see what your deposits, if any, will be. Some companies have flat deposits, some base it on your past utility history, and some base it on your credit report. Some utility companies will hold that deposit the whole time you have the account and some will return your deposit after a certain time frame of on-time payments.

December 15, 2011

Life Skills: Furnishing on a Budget

There are many items that you can buy used or get for free that can make your new home very comforting, inviting and practical. Almost all furniture, dishes and appliances can be obtained for little or no money if you know where to look.

Freecycle™ is a great place to start for most of those things. If you have a little time and patience you can find someone that needs to get rid of something you need. Go on the internet (use a library terminal if you don’t have computer or internet at home) to http://www.freecycle.org/ from that main page you can look up your area and see if there is a Freecycle™ group near you, and learn more about it. Most Freecycle™ groups are yahoo based groups where people post things they want to give away, and others post things they need/want. Most groups will not allow you to ask for something in the first two weeks of being a member or until you have posted offering something. However, if you email the moderators privately and explain that you are a victim of Domestic Violence and you are starting over and need some things they may let you go ahead and post requesting items.

There are other resources similar to Freecycle™ on the internet it just takes some looking around.
Craig’s List (http://www.craigslist.org/about/cities.html) and
Cheap Cycle (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Cheapcycle_Groups/), both allow people to sell items, but cheaper than it would be new.

Other places to search for affordable furnishings are: Salvation Army, Good Will, and local thrift stores. Most items found at these places are usually in decent shape. Most Domestic Violence Shelters run a thrift store, so if you have trouble finding your local thrift store ask the DV Shelter for assistance. Looking in the local classifieds can also prove to be useful.

December 14, 2011

Google Reader

Someone asked a couple weeks ago how to keep up with all the blogs they read and not spend ALL day doing so.  My answer to that, in short, is use Google Reader.

If you are not familiar with Google Reader you should look into it.  Basically it is a feed reader like most others, but for me I’ve found it easier to use; and well since it is Google and I love Google stuff it just works for me.  Google Reader can also be used on most smart phones, which is another plus as far as I am concerned!

A feed reader is simply a tool for gathering all the feeds from everywhere for you, and putting them all in one place so you don’t have to go get them each time an update is made.  So rather than actually visiting 70 blogs each morning to see if anyone made a new post since yesterday, you can just go to Google Reader and see what is new since you last checked.

 To subscribe to a feed in Reader:

  • Click the Add Subscription link in your left-hand sidebar.
  • Enter the URL of the blog or site you'd like to subscribe to.

Most blogs have feed autodiscovery enabled, meaning the site will automatically tell Reader where to find a blog's feed. If this doesn't work, you'll have to add the URL of a site's feed directly. Find the RSS logo on the site in question, click it, and copy and paste the link into the 'add subscription' box. If you can't find an RSS logo on the site, the site may not offer RSS feeds.

(The above text in italics is copied straight from the help section)

Blogger blogs that you follow (subscribe to) are automatically fed into your Google Reader.

When you have new items to view there will be a number in () beside the word Home, likewise in your list of feeds (that will be below the above section) each feed will show a number if there has been any updated content since your last visit.

You can have Google News and/or Alerts dumped into your Google Reader as well, which will help keep your email uncluttered.

Some blogs have their settings to where you can view the entire post in Google Reader without visiting the blog itself.  Others set it so that feed readers only show a snippet of the article or the first paragraph and then you would have to click from there to the blog in order to read the whole post.

As a side note here, I’d like to point out that once you visit a blog or site that you add to Google Reader, your IP address is not recorded each time you view the new content in the future.  AS LONG AS you do not return to the original site and ONLY read it in Google Reader.

I hope that this overview has given you enough information and links to get you going, but if not... feel free to ask me if you have any questions; I will be happy to walk you through it and help you get set up!

Using Gmail

I personally do not understand how anyone that receives more than five emails per day can use any email service other than GMail.  Especially if you are a member of any email based groups that produces email from several people, filtered through the group and into your email inbox.

This post is just a quick overview of GMail and is in no way intended to cover every function and/or feature.

First let’s take a look at price...it’s free...NEXT!  Because it is free and takes only a few minutes to set, I encourage everyone to start a gmail account and play with the different settings and features.  If you end up not liking it then delete it.
 
The one thing I love about gmail is the way it threads messages.  No more flat inbox.  If you and someone else are having a back and forth conversation via email all of those messages with the same subject line are together in your inbox, not scattered all over the place based on the time they were sent.  This feature is extremely helpful for group emails where several people may respond to the same email.  There will be one line in your inbox (or folder you filter messages into) with the subject line for that conversation, when you click that you will then see all the responses and replies stacked together in chronological order.

The filtering and folders play an important role in saving time checking email.  I am a member of several Yahoo Groups and have all messages from all those groups sent to my inbox...what a nightmare.  I set up folders for each group and filtered the messages into the corresponding folders.  Now when I am rushed for time I can scan my inbox for new email without wading through all the group emails that may or may not actually apply to me.  I can save those for later when I have time.

I suggest that you set filters into folders to skip the Inbox and go only to the designated folder.  When there is a new message sent to that folder there will be a number beside the folder name indicating there are new messages and how many that are still unread.  This will keep your actual Inbox from becoming cluttered.  I filter everything, newsletters, email from friends and family, special interest emails, etc etc; not just group emails.

Not only does filtering keep my Inbox uncluttered it also makes searching for information I need a whole lot easier for me.

The next thing I think you should look at and set up is the Priority Inbox.  This is a somewhat new feature.  Read a How-To on this feature.  I can say that so far, I love it!

The next thing you should look at is the Labs section in the Settings.  There are tons of ways to customize GMail, so that it works for you the way that you want it to.  Just because one person may think certain things are useful, another may not; so play with this stuff, try it out, see what actually works for you. 
With GMail you can IM, Voice and Video Chat and now send SMS text messages and make phone calls all from inside your GMail tab.  Gotta love that.
 
The overall reason I use GMail is that once I got it configured the way that works for me, have my filters set and all that... I can go through 100’s of emails in less than an hour.  Not every email that I get requires an answer from me, so I can sort those out quickly; delete what needs to go, file those that may need attention later into a folder and then just move on.
  
If you have any questions please feel free to ask, I have been using GMail for several years and know my way around and if I don’t know the answer to your specific question right away I will find it for you.

Mobile Tweeting, Give It a Try

Let’s talk about Twitter for a bit.  I touched on the very basics of Twitter in a previous post, Twitter Crash Course; however there is a little more that I’d like to discuss about it.  Twitter is about socializing online and with many people at once.  It is known as a social network.  You make friends by following people and they follow you back and all that.  The main point is to engage others in conversation or thought.

Many people have joined twitter only to share information with others and will rarely engage in a conversation.  I have done this at times while away from the internet or short on time.  I only post links to things and do not have the time to follow up on any conversations those links may have sparked.  While that is ok in a sense, it is not a good idea to only use Twitter in that way.

Did you know that you can receive tweets to your cell phone like a text message?  Did you also know that you can send tweets from your phone just like sending a text message?  If not, you can.  First of all, make sure that you have a text messaging package on your phone that will accommodate your tweeting activities without costing you an arm and a leg!  Even if you choose to not receive tweets to your phone you can still send them, just text your tweet to 40404.  It is easier to set that up while at the computer but is possible to do from your phone, just send your first tweet to that number and it will walk you through the rest.

If you have a smart phone...well you can either use the texting method or you can find an app that is compatible to your device and take your mobile tweeting to a whole new level.  (Hootsuite mobile app allows you to have multiple accounts logged in even!)  There are way too many different mobile apps for Twitter for me to even think of going into how to use them all.  If you are using a mobile app you can always find a FAQ section on the site you downloaded the app from to help you get started. 

If you choose to use the texting method of tweeting on the go, just log into your Twitter account and in the upper right portion click on Settings, then click Mobile.  This is where you can turn mobile tweets on and off, as well as see a list of texting commands that you can set from your phone.  You can also set individual people to get their tweets via text or not.  If you have more than a handful of people you follow you will more than likely want to choose those you interact with most, rather than choosing your entire list of people you follow.  If you get stuck on how to do this you can always go back to Settings and Mobile and read down the right hand side to review how to turn mobile tweets on and off.

Now that you know that you can tweet from your phone and how to do so let’s talk about why you would want to.  No one really wants to know what you are eating through out the day unless it is really rare or scrumptious.  However, what you eat can start conversations.  So, if what you are eating is interesting to you or you want to engage others in a conversation about food or something along those lines...by all means tweet it!

Tweeting while you are out and about brings a new level to the conversations that you can start and participate in via Twitter.  Rather than just sitting at your computer relaying links back and forth you can actually talk to others about activities that you are taking part in.  If you see a beautiful sunrise or sunset maybe describe it and ask others to share what they are seeing at that time.  Or better yet...take a picture of it and send it to something like Twitpic so that everyone can share in what you are seeing.  Or even take a video using Qik (or one of the others) and share the video through Twitter.  Using Twitpic and Qik are up to you, those are just the ones that I use, but there are many others out there that you can find and use.

Just be safety conscious while sending tweets, pictures or videos to Twitter (or anywhere else for that matter).  If you do not want to divulge your real location or identity then don’t take pictures of yourself or anything that will positively identify your or your location.  Another thing to check on is the geo-tagging of pictures from your device.  This can give away your location as well.

So go out...have fun...tweet about it...start a conversation...ENGAGE!

Twitter Crash Course

I wanted to go ahead and get this Twitter thing out of the way before I really get into the blogging stuff (tomorrow I will post more on blogging anonymously).  There are still a lot of people that are not using twitter, and most of the reasons that I have heard are because they have nothing they want to share that publicly and that much.  This is completely understandable, actually if it weren’t for my advocacy, awareness and coaching I would not Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...have joined in the twitter craze.  However, now that I am on there I do use it for some minor personal stuff. 

Twitter is a great way to get into social networking; especially for abuse survivors.  I say this because you can make an account that has nothing to do with your real name and you can begin to connect to others that are abuse survivors as well.  This helps to build communications and lets you know that you are not alone in this.  It also can help with trust issues that we all face once we are away from the trauma and abuse.  You can begin, even on a surface level, to communicate back and forth with others without having to even know who they are and without them knowing who you are.

I would also suggest that when you join twitter...don’t just follow people that talk about nothing but abuse, violence, trauma, etc.  It is harder (if not impossible) to heal if all you take in everyday is more stories about abuse.  If you have a hobby do a search for others that share that same hobby.  I follow people that tweet about crochet and reading; I also follow those that tweet about different healing techniques such as Reiki, tapping, Yoga, meditation, Law of Attraction, etc.  So, be diverse and follow many people, it is actually more fun that way! 

The rest of this post is for those that are new to twitter.  There are things that may have you scratching your head in confusion and you aren’t even sure where to look to figure it out.  I’m going to start with the symbols used within the messages and what they mean and how to use them; as this seems to be the one thing that most people give up using twitter because of.

  • @ -- this is the symbol you use directly in front of a profile name to reply to someone specifically (ie @TLCoaching), everyone else can read this tweet.  The reason you use this is to get the other person’s attention.  All of your mentions (@’s) are on one page or depending on which twitter client you use they are in one column, that way you can see who specifically has said something to you.  You can also use this to mention, recommend, or give credit to another twitterer.  Using the @ in front of a profile name creates a link to that profile that is clickable.
  • # -- this is called the hashtag and by putting this symbol in front of a word you create a hashtag that is searchable (#domesticviolence).  Do not use spaces in hastags, if you do only the first word is picked up.  If you make up an abbreviation to use as a hashtag, send out a tweet explaining it, so that your followers will know what it means.  Using the # in front of words makes a link to the search page that is clickable.
  • d -- you use the letter d in front of a profile name to send a direct message to someone that no one but that person sees.  (d TLCoaching).  There is a space after the ‘d’. 
  • RT -- this means re-tweet, you use this when you are copying exactly what someone else tweeted (RT @TLCoaching).  You still use the @ in front of the profile name because that gives a link to the person who sent it.  This is a polite thing to do, you will upset people if you constantly forward their tweets without giving them the credit.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • When you send a tweet that you want to have re-tweeted make it short enough so others CAN re-tweet it.  If they have to work too hard in shortening it themselves many won’t.
  • If you send something that you want others to pass on just add a (PLS RT) to the beginning or end, don’t be shy about asking people to pass it on, they will.
  • If you want to RT something that has been RT’d several times and all the profiles are taking up the 140 characters; delete them all except the original person who sent it (this should be the profile name closest to the message).  If you have room then you could also leave on the person that you are following that passed it on so that you saw it.
  • Texting slang/shortcuts are helpful but do confuse people sometimes.  Make sure you are using widely known shortcuts to cut down on confusion.  If you need to figure out what a certain abbreviation or slang term is a good place to look is Internet Slang Dictionary & Translator or Netlingo.

That’s about it!  There are other things that you will figure out as you go along!  If you have questions either ask on twitter (others will help you along) or post your comments and questions here and I will help you if I can.

Blogging Anonymously

Many of us want to speak out, tell our stories, share our experiences and help others by telling things as they are. Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua... However, for safety reasons many are concerned or even scared to do so, and with good reason.  A person who still has a protective order against their abuser because of past violence and threats made can’t exactly feel (or be) safe blabbing everything that happened to them all over the internet.  Those that were abused as children and now still talk to the same people that abused them; may be reluctant to talk about what happened. 

There are ways that you can still share your story; not only to help others but as a stepping stone in your own healing process.  Many people make up online personalities to use for social networking and blogging.  No one says that you have to use your real name, your actual location or anything personal.  If you go the route of making up an online personality to blog and join social networking sites with make sure you do not give yourself away (for those that you wish to remain anonymous).

Here are a few of the most common mistakes that I have seen where someone with a made up screen name has ‘outted’ themselves:

  • If you don’t want someone you know in real life to find your new online identity, don’t tell anyone in real life about your identity.  Things have a habit of spreading to the people you don’t want them to.
  • Don’t use the same email account for everything.  When you make up an online personality give it its own email account.  Use a free email provider, don’t make a new account with your home internet provider.   Don’t link this new made up account with your old accounts at all.
  • Don’t post/use real pictures of you, your family, your pets, etc. 
  • If you promote your new blog or profile from your real profile say something like “I just found this blog/person” or “Reading this interesting post”  or something along those lines.  If someone asks you if that is really you, well then you must decide if you tell them or not.
  • Don’t use the real names of anyone you may be talking about on your blog or profile.  Many people will use just the first initial of everyone, but if someone that knows you and those people read what you have written it isn’t hard to put initials and details together.
  • Use a different location than where you are and a different time zone.  Usually you can adjust these in the settings area of many blogs and profiles.
  • Don’t use a made up name that has any meaning to you or that could make someone think of you.  If your favorite animal is tigers, lets say, then don’t make your username tiger something.  If you prefer to use a real sounding name don’t use something like your middle name and your grandma’s last name, others can figure that out.  Make up something that is totally not you.  If you want a real sounding new identity try this site:  http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/gen-female-us-us.php

There are many many other things that I’m sure could be added to the list above.  If you have something to add please leave it in a comment on this post!

I have had the discussion with others about whether it is ‘right’ to use a fake identity to tell your ‘truth’.  My opinion on that is that if it is keeping a person safe (and safety is the primary factor in my mind) and helping them and others at the same time...then sure why not use a fake identity online.

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To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question...

If you are like several people that I know and have worked with you feel like you want to start telling everyone about the abuse that you have endured. Some decide to do that from the awareness stance, some decide to go into prevention work, and others decide to just tell their own stories and encourage others to heal through knowing they aren't alone. Regardless of your reason for wanting to speak out, you are now faced with the question of: How do I do this safely and What is the best way for me to reach others? Is blogging really for me?; is another question that many think about when trying to decide to start a blog or not.

Do you like to write? Do you keep a journal and feel that you would like to share parts of it with others to help them in their healing? Whether or not you have good spelling, grammar or typing skills should not matter in your decision to start blogging.

Perhaps you are not ready to start blogging or just the thought of it is giving you anxiety attacks...for various reasons. You could also consider micro-blogging through a service such as twitter.com or using the notes and/or status section of a facebook.com profile to get started with.

There are so many different platforms out there for blogging that it would be impossible for me to cover every one of them. I personally like blogger.com the best for those that are new to blogging. I recommend jigsy.com for those that want a website and blog meshed together. I have used wordpress.com and personally I don't like it simply because I can not customize and tweak things the way I can with blogger and viviti.

Before you begin blogging or micro-blogging you need to think about whether or not you will be in danger if your abuser finds out that you are telling the world what they have done to you. The great thing about the internet is that you can speak out with out identifying yourself or putting yourself in danger.

Another thing to think about before you use your real name...do you have kids? Do they already know everything you plan to blog about (including details you may include at times)? If you have kids and would rather they NOT read everything you plan to blog, then you may also want to use a fake name.

If you need to remain anonymous yet would like to have a real sounding name so that your readers will take you seriously; visit this website: http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/gen-female-us-us.php to generate an entirely random name and location to use.

One thing to keep in mind is this: If you don't want to write or blog and someone else is telling you that you should...then you should think about whether or not to even start a blog. If you aren't ready to write about what has happened, well then you are not ready; period. Although many are helped greatly in their healing process through writing, there are those that are not helped at all. There are even some of us that fear writing when we first start thinking about it, after what we have been through.

So, if you don't want to do it, then don't; and do not let anyone try to force you into it. (Unless of course it is a medical professional; which I am not....then you may want to at least discuss it with them)

If you have any questions about this or how to get started please leave a comment!

Go Empower Yourself!

DV Hotline Numbers by Country

We have done our best to provide accurate information here, but we can not contact each place to verify the type of help they give or if the numbers are still active. If you have further information that can be posted here please use the comment section below to give that information, thanks!

Afghanistan: Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission +93 (0)20 2500676

Australia: Lifeline 1800200526 (24 hour helpline)

Brazil: 80 for help with Domestic Violence (24 hours) - Women's helpline

Canada: Assaulted Women's Helpline (Ontario, Canada) 1-866-863-0511 (can accept calls from outside Ontario), Sexual Assault Centre Edmonton 780-423-4121 TTY line 780-420-1482 (24 hour crisis line), Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter 604.872.8212


Egypt: Al-Nadeem works with victims of violence 0164004012/0164004013

European Domestic Violence Agencies: http://www.hotpeachpages.net/a/countries.html

Germany: http://www.distel.ca/womlist/countries/germany.html

India: call 1091 Women's Helpline taking care of women and Helplines & Support 4 Women in India facing violence, dowry threats http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/1843-bengaluru-women-helpline

Ireland: National Free Helpline 1800 341 900, Safe Ireland 090 6479078

Israel: Women's International Zionist Organisation: 1-800-220-000, Isha L'Isha -

Batterd women's hotline (also receives calls frm Palestinian women in West Bank) 972-4-8650977, Shalom Bayit: grassroots organization dedicated to empowering battered Jewish women. http://www.shalom-bayit.org

Lebanon: Kafa helpline at 03018019

Malaysia: Women's Aid Organisation 03 7956 3488

Mexico: 01-800-911-25-11

Philippines: call 1343 in Metro Manila, call (02)1343 from anywhere else

Russia: crisis lines in St. Petersburg: (812) 327-3000, in Moscow: 8 800 7000 600

Saudi Arabia - Natl Hotline toll-free number providing advice and help for Domestic Violence victims: 8001245005

Scotland: Scotland's National Domestic Abuse Hotline 0800 027 1234, The Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline 08088 01 03 02

South Africa: Stop Women Abuse 0800 150 150 toll free

Singapore: PAVe Tel: 6555 0390, AWARE 1800 774 5935 to speak to an AWARE (Singapore) helpliner - open to all women with crisis of any kind
S. Africa's People Opposing Women Abuse (011) 642 4345 (shelter and counseling services)

Turkey: To report & get help call 0212 656 9696 or 0549 656 9696 (only in Istanbul)

UK: The Rape & Abuse Helpline UK (toll-free) - 0808 800 0123 answered by women; 0808 800 0122 answered by men, UK help escaping domestic violence, call the 24-hr helpline at 0808 2000 247

US: National DV Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

Wales: Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline - 0808 80 10 800

Domestic Violence Resources

This section is designated for all matters concerning domestic violence. If you are looking for specific information and can not find it here, please use our Contact Form to the left or leave a comment below. We will provide any assistance that we can in helping you locate the information you are looking for.

Hotline Numbers by Country (for crisis and help)

United States Coalition List by State




Sites
Sites for healing from Domestic Violence
Blogs

Stalking Resources

This section is designated for all matters concerning stalking. This section is for both teens and adults. This section will cover awareness topics and other information that may be helpful if you are a victim of stalking. This section covers stalking in a general sense and may include info helpful to those that are in a domestic violence, dating violence or other abusive situation. If you are looking for specific information and can not find it here, please use our Contact Form to the left or leave a comment below. We will provide any assistance that we can in helping you locate the information you are looking for.


For Victim Assistance, please call the National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline at 1-800-FYI-CALL, M-F 8:30 AM - 8:30 PM EST, or e-mail gethelp@ncvc.org.



Sexual Abuse/Assault Resources

This section is designated for all matters concerning sexual assault. If you are experiencing or have experienced sexual assault at the hands of someone you know you may also want to check out our Child Abuse, Dating Violence, or Domestic Violence Pages. If you are looking for specific information and can not find it here, please use our Contact Form to the left or leave a comment below. We will provide any assistance that we can in helping you locate the information you are looking for.


US Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline 800.656.HOPE Online Hotline
South Africa Stop Women Abuse 0800 150 150 toll free
S. Africa's People Opposing Women Abuse (011) 642 4345 (shelter and counseling services)



Sites


Sites for healing from Sexual Assault
Blogs

Dating Abuse Resources

This section is designated for all matters concerning dating violence. This section is for both teens and adults; as well as parents of teens who are dating and/or have been victims of dating violence. If you are looking for specific information and can not find it here, please use our Contact Form to the left or leave a comment below. We will provide any assistance that we can in helping you locate the information you are looking for.

State Laws on Teen Dating Violence



US National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866.331.9474 or 866.331.8453 (TTY)


Sites

Child Abuse Resources

This section is designated for all matters concerning child abuse and sexual molestation of children by a parent. If you are looking for specific information and can not find it here, please use our Contact Form to the left or leave a comment below. We will provide any assistance that we can in helping you locate the information you are looking for.

8 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse


US National Child Abuse Hotline 800.422.4453

Darkness2Light Resource List
Sites covering Child Abuse
Blogs about Child Abuse





Life Skills: Transportation

Securing reliable transportation is almost a must for everyone regardless of where you live. If you live in a city area where work, home and shopping are all within walking distance then you are lucky and can save money that would be spent for transportation for other things. If you do not live in an area where walking is easy, convenient and safe then you must decide on another way to get around. Some cities still have bus systems that are affordable, some areas have trains that are affordable, and the more expensive mode of public transportation is taxis. You could choose to use a combination of public systems and walking for a while if that will fit your life style and budget.

Many people also opt for riding a bicycle or moped, depending on where they live in relation to where they work. Using one of these methods in conjunction with public transportation can also save you money to start with. However, most people are forced to get a vehicle for many reasons such as; location of places they must go or having children.

If you have to get a car right away consider something economical, which is dependable and good on gas. If your credit score or income will not support buying a new car, don’t stress about it. You can still find a good car that you can afford that will get the job done.

Look at used lots that offer their own financing plans. You will pay higher interest and thus end up paying more than the car is worth, but they usually don’t check your credit and have payment plans that will fit your budget. Just be careful to not let the very nice person selling you the car “take you for a ride” so to speak. Try to take a male relative or co-worker with you, even if you do all the talking and know enough about cars to not get cheated; having a male there for some reason makes a lot of the “smooth-talking” go away.

If you do not have a male that can go with you, ask a female to go with you, which just having two people there can help you. If you do not know anyone in your area, go to the local Domestic Violence shelter or a church and explain what you need and ask if they would send someone with you. Most of the time if you explain your situation briefly ( don’t go into details you aren’t comfortable revealing) and tell them you think you need help in choosing a good car at an affordable price, they may be able to provide someone that can take you to a car lot and help you.

Whether you go alone or with someone don’t be talked into a deal that you know you can’t afford or that just doesn’t feel right. Always ask to test drive the car. If it is possible have it set up with a mechanic to bring it in during that test drive to get it looked over and ask them their opinion of the car. Tell the mechanic the asking price and ask if the car is mechanically sound enough for that price. This may cost you a little money but well worth it in the long run.

Sometimes people will list cars on the internet for sell. Be very careful if you choose to buy a car this way. People sometimes will also offer cars through Freecycle™ (http://www.freecycle.org/) and TheGuide ( www.theguide.com/ ). Again, be careful here because you would have to spend money on insurance, tags, taxes, etc. and may end up with a car that doesn’t run, and now have no money to insure and tag another one. You can find cars for sell in local papers also, these are usually for cash sales only from individuals, be careful if buying a car this way, and again try to take someone else with you to look at it. Ask to test drive it and try to arrange with a mechanic to look it over while you have it out for the test drive.

Another way of finding a car fairly cheap is through your local junk yard.  Not exactly the first place you'd think to look for a working vehicle, but there are junk yards with mechanics and shops that fix up vehicles they get in.  They get them road worthy and sell them pretty cheap.  They ask for a lot less money down than a used car center, and many times you can get them to work with you just a bit more since they have less money tied into the vehicle.  Some offer a free loaner vehicle if your vehicle needs to be fixed within a certain amount of time.  Again, if going this route, get someone that knows about vehicles to go with you, and get the vehicle checked if possible while doing the test drive or shortly after you buy it.

Car insurance rates vary so greatly by state and individual driver that it is hard to pinpoint one insurance company that is best or cheapest or whatever. I suggest taking the time to get quotes from several different companies and then choose the one that is right for you. Remember that if you are making payments on a car most lenders will require full coverage, so ask before buying the car what they require and get quotes based on that.

When getting out of an abusive situation, many don't have the money needed to help them get a vehicle.  This is a tough situation without any great answers, but another avenue to address your transportation problem is organizations or churches.  It is better to have an agency do it for you such as a shelter or other recognized DV support agency.  Getting several resources together could help you with the money down to get the vehicle that is needed.

In the comments section below, feel free to add your comments, suggestions and experiences on finding transportation.

May 10, 2011

They date, they abuse, they text, they kill: Messages a new silent weapon

The article found here (copied below): http://www.twincities.com/ci_15346413?source=most_viewed   states in the title that textual harassment is something new, but it isn't really.  If you read the article it cites cases going back a few years.  It is new only in the sense that before text messaging it was not possible.  Parents, please check on your teens texting!!  Teens, please know that if you are being harassed by someone you can find places to get help...your parents, teachers, friends even, and many places on line.  Love Is Respect is one of the best places to turn to.  There are others in the sites listed in the Dating Abuse Page here on this blog. 

Please read the article in full, yeah yeah I know it's long, but pay attention to the one thing they all had in common...no one else knew.  The nature of texting allows this to be completely private and well hidden.  Do something about it now...before it's too late.  Don't think it can't be you or your kids, because it can!  I know many parents that feel that checking their kids phones is an invasion of privacy; well so is death at the hands of an abusive partner.  You can start by monitoring just the number of texts per day, week, month, etc....if you see a spike talk to your teen, ask what is going on.  Then, only if you feel the need to do so, do you have to actually read the messages.

By Donna St. George
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The text messages to the 22-year-old Virginia woman arrived day and night, sometimes 20 or 30 at once. Her ex-boyfriend wanted her back. He would not be refused. He texted or called 758 times.

In New York, a 17-year-old trying to break up with her boyfriend got fewer messages, but they were menacing. "You don't need nobody else but me," read one. Another threatened to kill her.

It is all part of what is increasingly called "textual harassment," a growing aspect of dating violence at a time when cell phones and unlimited texting plans are ubiquitous among the young. It can be insidious, because messages pop up at the sender's will: Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me?

"It's gotten astonishingly worse in the last two years," said Jill Murray, who has written several books on dating violence and speaks on the topic nationally. Especially for those who have grown up in digital times, "it's part and parcel of every abusive dating relationship now."

The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 a.m. demands. Texts arrive in class, at the dinner table, in movie theaters — 100 or more a day, for some.

Harassment is "just easier now, and it's even more persistent and constant, with no letting up," said Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University of Virginia, which became the focus of national attention in May with the killing of lacrosse player Yeardley Love, 22.

Police have charged Love's ex-boyfriend, George Huguely, 22, with first-degree murder and allege he removed her computer from the crime scene as he fled. Huguely had sent Love angry e-mails, according to police, who have not released details.

Kacey Kirkland, a victim services specialist with the police department in Fairfax County, Va., has seen textual harassment in almost every form: threats, rumors, lies, late-night questions.

Love s former boyfriend allegedly called or texted her 758 times, insisting they get back together. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Love’s former boyfriend allegedly called or texted her 758 times, insisting they get back together. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

"The advances in technology are assisting the perpetrators in harassing and stalking and threatening their victims," Kirkland said.

In the case involving the 22-year-old who received 758 messages from her ex-boyfriend, the harassment led to stalking charges and a protective order, Kirkland said.

Harassment by text is one facet of abusive relationships, which often involve contact in person, by phone, by e-mail and through Facebook or other social networking sites.

"What technology offers is irrefutable evidence of the abuse," said Cindy Southworth, founder of the Safety Net Project on technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Siobhan Shev Russell was killed by her boyfriend 10 weeks after high school graduation. Her mother later found scores of text messages from the boy. (THE WASHINGTON POST)

Siobhan Shev Russell was killed by her boyfriend 10 weeks after high school graduation. Her mother later found scores of text messages from the boy. (THE WASHINGTON POST)

Lynne Russell said the privacy of text messaging helped obscure the danger facing her daughter, Siobhan "Shev" Russell. The 19-year-old from Oak Hill, Va., was killed by her boyfriend in April 2009, 10 weeks after delivering a graduation speech at Mountain View Alternative High School.

Later, Russell and her husband found scores of texts, some disturbing, from the boy, now 18.

"I don't think she recognized the warning signs, and we didn't see the signs until it was too late," said Russell, who plans a dating-violence awareness campaign for the fall.

A federal survey released this month showed one in 10 high school students nationally reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. Such surveys do not show rising violence, but the texting culture has changed the experience.

Kristin Mitchell, 21, got a text message from her boyfriend asking why Kristin had gone to her goddamned class rather than spend time with him, among others. She was killed three weeks after her graduation from college.

One woman in her 20s was so closely tracked that her partner insisted she text him photos — each with a clock displaying the time — to prove her whereabouts, said Hannah Sassoon, head of the domestic violence response team in Montgomery County, Md.

In the past several years, about a dozen states have passed or are considering laws to bring dating violence education into schools.

The legislative push comes partly from parents such as Gary Cuccia, a Pennsylvania father whose daughter, Demi Brae, was killed a day after her 16th birthday in 2007. Cuccia said Demi had broken up with her teen-age boyfriend.

Cuccia would later learn that the ex-boyfriend had texted Demi again and again, saying such things as, "You know you can't live without me." After Demi finally agreed to see him, the boy came to her home when she was alone and stabbed her 16 times.

Her father said the largely private nature of texting is an important factor.

"When I was growing up, we had one phone in the whole house, and if you were fighting with your girlfriend, everybody knew about it," Cuccia said.

Last year, Maryland passed a bill to encourage — not require — school districts to teach the topic. It was less than what Bill and Michele Mitchell, who lost their daughter, Kristin, to dating violence in 2005, wanted. But it was a start, and the couple, from Ellicott City, Md., say they will continue to push.

Kristin, 21, graduated from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia three weeks before her death. Just hours before she was killed, she had texted her boyfriend, "you are being ridiculous why cant I do something with my friends."

Bill Mitchell later learned the boyfriend had sent texts such as the one asking why Kristin had gone to her "goddamned class" rather than spend time with him. Mitchell said he hopes more young people will begin to see warning signs where his family did not.

"Text messaging, in the wrong hands, has to be about the worst thing that's come along when we're talking about dating violence and controlling personalities," Mitchell said.

A recent survey by the Associated Press and MTV shows that nearly one in four respondents ages 14 to 24 reported that partners check in multiple times a day to see where they are or who they are with, and more than one in 10 said partners demanded passwords.

One challenge is that many youths do not view excessive texting as a problem. "If you're getting 50 messages an hour and you want 50 messages an hour, that's not a problem," said Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of Break the Cycle, which works to end dating violence. "But if you're getting 50 messages an hour and you don't even want one, that's very different."

Such topics are addressed through a teen help line called Love Is Respect and several national awareness campaigns, including MTV's effort on digital abuse, A Thin Line, a joint effort on digital dating abuse called That's Not Cool and the initiative Love is Not Abuse.

Murray, the author, said her cases have included a 16-year-old whose ex-boyfriend paid four friends to help him text when he was asleep or at work: "It was like psychological torture."

Murray urges parents to check on how many messages their children get, at what hour and from whom. "Parents don't know this is going on whatsoever," she said.

May 9, 2011

The Leadership Council - 8 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse

The following is from The Leadership Council.  If you have not checked their site out, we think you should.  They have a lot of helpful information that is well put together, and they are a good organization that we feel actually help people rather than just say they do.

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.

The Leadership Council - 8 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse