An Unclear Yet Present Danger
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
I didn’t plan to write another blog article this week but felt compelled to do so when I watched the video at the end of this article. As a psychotherapist specializing in working with trauma survivors, I’ve met with thousands of men, women, and children who have experienced the horrors of sexual abuse. Called “numb survivors,” many have frozen their emotions for years (or decades), while trauma’s ramifications silently infiltrate every area of their lives. Current statistics vary, but as many as one in three women and one in five men have experienced sexual trauma by age 18. [Look at those numbers again: if ANY other social problem wounded that many people, wouldn’t there be a huge public outcry over the pandemic threatening society?]
Don’t be naïve: predators are everywhere--they’re experts at infiltrating places people expect to be safe, where children and youth trust the people around them. Predators are in churches, Bible studies, private schools, public schools, sports teams, school buses-anywhere and everywhere people go. That’s why every church and school need a safety plan, including screening all volunteers, having more than one family doing childcare in church nurseries, making sure staff office doors have windows, even being aware of texts from teachers and student ministry volunteers to those entrusted to their care.
I’m not trying to make you afraid but certainly hope to help you be aware. Parents: if you notice a change in your child’s behavior [if he or she starts having nightmares, anxiety, depression, or doesn’t want to go certain places or be with certain people, etc.], listen! If your child says someone touched him or her, believe your child! I have been astonished to observe how many parents accuse their molested children of lying instead of learning what’s really happening. Can children lie? Of course [all parents know this]. But, it’s the parents’ responsibility to be sure their children are safe and discover when something is wrong.
Children are targets for sexual predators, who use lures like:
Do you want a daddy who will always be there for you?
Do you like secrets? And do you want to have fun? This is our secret.
I’m letting you do this with me because you’re one of the cool kids, and only the cool kids do this.
This is the mommy and daddy game; I’m helping you learn how to be a grown up.
No one else cares for you like I do.
I will teach you something most kids don’t know, and you’re going to feel great.
If you don’t do this for me, I won’t hang out with you anymore.
Those are only a few of the thousands of lies predators tell their victims to shame them into silence or manipulate them into doing what the predator wants to do. Sexual abuse is not a “love relationship;” it’s all about power and control. The tragedy deepens when children bear the shame of the predators’ behaviors, thinking they are somehow defective. Predators coerce children and teens into thinking they’re the ones who initiated the sham “relationship.” Shamed into silence, victims often bear the pain alone for the rest of their lives.
Every. Single. Prostitute with whom I’ve met has been sexually traumatized in childhood or adolescence. Many addicts began numbing their pain with marijuana, alcohol, opiates, etc. in a vain attempt to silence their feelings of worthlessness and shame after experiencing childhood sexual trauma.
Predators frequently introduce children and youth to drugs to make them “owe” them something, eventually saying, “You know I’ve been giving you a lot of __________ name of drug of choice] to help you feel good and be happy…but it costs me a lot of money. So, today, we’re going to a nice place where there will be some people who are going to ask you to do some things to help them feel better. By doing what they want, you can pay me back some of what you owe. [But the person being trafficked can never fully repay their debt with that insidious “debt repayment plan!”]
It’s worse, much worse, than I can share in a public blog. I can’t share any of my clients’ tragic stories, but I can emphatically say this: children, youth, and adults deserve better! We need to be alert to the pandemic that’s already happening. Since most survivors are silenced by lies predators told them, or by resultant false guilt, even those close to them are often unaware they're quietly tormented, day and night, by painful core damage.
That’s why I developed the Core Healing counseling protocol--to help trauma survivors heal five core areas of competence, safety, identity, purpose and belonging, while learning to think in new ways, experiencing the joy and freedom God designed for them in the first place.
Whether you've experienced sexual abuse or another form of traumatic stress, Core Healing from Trauma can help you heal. But my prayer is that we can help people avoid senseless trauma. Before you watch the following video, please wonder how you can be available to help people live in safety. If you suspect someone is being abused, you can call the national toll-free hotline, at 800.96ABUSE (800.962.2873). If you suspect someone is being trafficked, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, at 888.373.7888.
You can begin training your preschoolers, with something as simple as, “We don’t let anyone touch the parts of our bodies covered by swimsuits.” You can sit with your children and draw pictures of children at the beach, discussing what swimsuits cover. Predators, though, often counter what you teach. If a child says, “Mommy/Daddy said we don’t let people touch…” a predator might respond with, “Oh, but they didn’t mean me. I’m your friend / uncle / teacher / coach / mom’s friend, etc. and it’s OK if we touch each other.” Over 80% of sexual abuse occurs with someone known to and trusted by the child, NOT a stranger.
You don’t have to be graphic but do need to be clear, using “real” names for body parts. You can tell your children, “If anyone asks you to keep a secret, you can tell mommy and daddy, because we are here to make sure you’re safe.” With older children, have computers in public areas of your home and monitor not only what they’re watching but their history and the amount of time they spend on games, social media, etc. [maximum time: no more than two hours daily, but you know your child, and for many, less is more! If they’re withdrawing from the family, isolating from outdoor activities, that’s a tipoff that too much time is being spent in cyberspace]. Know what’s on the computer games your kids are playing, because many seemingly innocuous games take your children into porn sites they can rapidly click out of when they hear you approaching. Sexual predators have voracious appetites, and they absolutely don’t care who they hurt, or how much. Phones need to be given to parents at (or before) bedtime.
Please watch Social Media Dangers Exposed by Mom Posing as an 11-year-old. [Caution: there are some painful scenes--but they don’t compare to the agony we want to help people avoid!]
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where you can see more about using "Core Healing from Trauma" as resource for healing!