Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually.

National Statistics on Child Abuse

In 2015, an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.1 In 2015, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served more than 311,0002 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families.
Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. An estimated 683,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2015, the most recent year for which there is national data.
CPS protects more than 3 million children. Approximately 3.4 million children received an investigation or alternative response from child protective services agencies. 2.3 million children received prevention services. 
The youngest children were most vulnerable to maltreatment. Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 24.2 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.
Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment. Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, three-quarters suffered neglect; 17.2% suffered physical abuse; and 8.4% suffered sexual abuse. (Some children are polyvictimized—they have suffered more than one form of maltreatment.)
About four out of five abusers are the victims’ parents. A parent of the child victim was the perpetrator in 78.1% of substantiated cases of child maltreatment. 

How Children's Advocacy Centers Served Children: Statistics 2

Children’s Advocacy Centers served more than 311,000 children around the country in 2015. Here’s a snapshot of these children. 
Child Victims Served by CACs by Age, 2015 | Ages 0-6, 37%; Ages 7-12, 37%; Ages 13-17, 26%
Two-thirds of children served disclosed sexual abuse (205,438).
Nearly 20% of children served disclosed physical abuse (60,897).
211,831 children received on-site forensic interviewing at a Children’s Advocacy Center.

People Investigated for Abuse

People Investigated by Age | 18+ 77%; 13-17, 13%; Under 13, 10% | Relationship to Victim | Known, not family, 10%; Parent or Caregiver, 39%; Relative of Child, 51%

Of those alleged to have abused children, nearly a quarter were themselves children.

Almost 40% were a parent or caregiver of the child victim.
Fully 90% of alleged abusers were related in some way to the child victim. 

All national child abuse statistics cited from U.S. Administration for Children & Families, Child Maltreatment 2015.
National Children’s Alliance 2015 national statistics collected from Children’s Advocacy Center members and available on the NCA website:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


My name is Wesley Hogue and I want to share my story with you.
My childhood was a lot like many others. I had an amazing family and was surrounded by a community of people who cared about me. I was also sexually abused.
As a survivor, I am committed to sharing my story in the hope that through increased awareness, more children can be protected from sexual abuse. Throughout the month of April, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, I'll be sharing my experience on the Darkness to Light Facebook page. My story is just one example of the tremendous impact that abuse has on a child that can last into adulthood. Watch the video below for a preview:

Wesley April Teaser Video

The message from Darkness to Light is a hopeful one. Prevention is possible. They know that when adults are trained to protect kids, they will. And when entire communities are trained, we can cause a culture shift that can protect children everywhere.
Despite my personal experience, I still have hope that children can be protected. I hope you'll join me in showing that you are committed to prevention by downloading the "I Make Prevention Possible" selfie sign,sharing with your social media circles, and following Darkness to Light on Facebook.
Thank you for all that you do to protect children everywhere.
Wesley Hogue

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Protect Your Child from a Predator

This article is wonderfully written and has some useful information on keeping all of our kids safe. Please comment below.


Protect Your Child from a Predator

One year ago this month, the scandal at Penn State reminded us of the realities of sexual abuse. Sadly, the majority of children who've been victimized never tell on their own, so it's up to us to spot the warning signs.
 When I was in fifth grade, I begged my parents to let me quit music lessons. But I didn't tell them why. I feared what might happen if they knew what the teacher had done to me after saying he loved me and leading me away to a dark bedroom.
        Suffice it to say that when my own daughter started lessons at age 5, I plopped myself down in the same room with a book. Fortunately, there's a much greater awareness about child sexual abuse than there was in my youth. In fact, there's a much greater awareness than there was just 12 months ago, before former Penn State University's football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing ten boys over a 15-year period. (Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.) That horrifying case has sparked a national conversation about child sexual abuse, as well as a significant increase in calls to hotlines from people seeking support and guidance about preventing or stopping it. In just the first two weeks after the allegations surfaced, the national organization Stop It Now!, which works to prevent child sexual abuse, experienced a 130 percent increase in contacts.

       What many parents now understand is that sexual abuse is quite common. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Roughly 90 percent of offenders are relatives of their victim, or acquaintances such as neighbors, family friends, teachers, and coaches. "Child predators can appear to the outside world to be warm, caring, loving, and respectful," says Robin Sax, author of Predators and Child Molesters and a former Los Angeles prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes against children. "It is these very traits that allow them to continue their horrific acts."

       That's one reason why the prevention strategies that many of us have heard before aren't very helpful. Expecting kids to sort out the difference between positive and negative touch can backfire, for instance, because sexual abuse doesn't always start out feeling "yucky." It doesn't necessarily hurt, nor does it have to involve touch. (Such is the case when adults show pornography to kids or get them to expose themselves for photos.) And suggesting your child "yell and tell" if a grown-up makes him feel uncomfortable can be a tall order. This is especially true when the offender is an authority figure who has worked hard to win your child's trust.

       Unfortunately, children will often keep abuse secret because they feel confused, scared, or guilty. "An abuser typically shames his victim or threatens a child with what will happen if she tells," says Anne Lee, founder of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit in Charleston, South Carolina, dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. It's important to encourage children to ask for help if anything makes them feel mixed up or confused, says Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. But avoid using the word should. By saying "You should scream" or "You should run," it puts the burden on the child. (And if you happen to share this advice with a child who has already been abused, it gives the unintended message that he was responsible for protecting himself, she adds.)

       So how can you best safeguard your children? The best prevention involves having somewhat difficult conversations with your child but making sure they're age-appropriate. (See "Preventing Abuse" on the next page.) Also, trust your gut. "Go with your instincts if anything bothers you about someone who spends time with your child," Sax says. That includes the neighbor or person from church who is overly eager to help you out by babysitting or just taking your kid off your hands. Having a bad vibe is not necessarily enough to make a crime report, but it's plenty to justify your not allowing that person access to your kid. "In a school setting, always report an uneasy feeling to administrators, because they are mandated reporters and are trained to decide whether the situation warrants further attention," she explains. You are not liable, as long as there is something suspicious that warrants the report.

Prevention and warning signs

Know Who's In Your Child's Life

       Since we can't always be right there with our kids, we need to know that they are always in supervised situations with trustworthy adults. Today many youth organizations have policies such as the Boy Scouts of America's "two-deep leadership" rule, which requires at least two adults on all outings. If your child belongs to a group with this guideline, make him aware of it so he can tell you if it's not being used.

      Similarly, check whether your child's day care, school, and after-school programs have an open-door policy, along with either an actual open door or a window into every room where kids spend time. (Many classrooms have at least a small window built into each door.) Ideally, this should be combined with regular, unexpected visits by supervisors. In fact, for any situation that's innately private (such as counseling), there should be a door with a window, so you always have the chance to observe, says Johnson.

       If you use a nanny or another unsupervised caregiver, don't stop with a check of her background and references. Occasionally drop in unannounced. And make it clear that you don't want your child left in someone else's care without your permission, since it's possible that a friend or a family member of the caregiver could have sexual- behavior problems, says Johnson. This is particularly important if care takes place in a home where other grown-ups or older kids may be around.

      Get to know the coaches, clergy, teachers, and other adults in your child's world and observe how they interact with her. Show up to practice, involve yourself in activities, and volunteer in the classroom. And if anything feels off, talk to other parents and compare notes. "Listen up when they express concerns or uncomfortable feelings, and strategize as a group about how you can ensure the safety of one another's kids," says Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for the anti-sexual violence coalition Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which founded the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

       It's also crucial to become acquainted with your children's friends. Pay special attention to friendships involving older kids, which can lead to vulnerable situations. More than a third of those who sexually abuse children are under the age of 18 themselves. In many instances, a child may not grasp that his actions toward another child are harmful, says Deborah Donovan Rice, executive director of Stop It Now!

Recognize Red Flags

      Only one in five kids who have been sexually abused will report it, says Robin Castle, child sexual abuse prevention manager at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. (The majority of survivors wait until they're older to talk about it.) "It's very, very hard for a child to disclose, even under the best of circumstances," she explains. So you need to watch for warning signs. "If your child tells you that he doesn't want to be around a particular person or take part in certain outings, take him seriously," says Lee, who speaks from personal experience. As a child she was abused repeatedly by an uncle who told her no one would love her if they found out what she'd done. She kept quiet but tearfully dreaded annual gatherings at the family's summer cabin.

       Some children may show physical signs such as unexplained urinary infections, redness, or swelling in the genital area. Other kids may have stomachaches, headaches, or sudden bedwetting. Behavioral signs can include angry outbursts, sleep problems, withdrawal, or a drop in grades. Sexual precociousness is another worrisome sign; perhaps the child starts making sexual comments or showing inappropriate sexual behaviors. Of course, none of these actions points specifically to sexual abuse, but they may warrant a consultation with a child psychologist or a pediatrician who's been trained in child abuse.

       Above all else, keep this in mind: "If you suspect that your child—or any child—has been abused, the most important thing is to not investigate it on your own," insists Johnson. Extensive questioning may jeopardize an ensuing investigation. Instead, immediately report your suspicion to your state child-protection-services agency (find a state-by-state list at

How to Talk About Abuse

       If your child ever discloses abuse to you, you have one main responsibility: "Listen for all you're worth, and be loving and supportive," says Johnson. Incidents reported by children are rarely false, experts agree. There's no template for this discussion; it depends heavily on the child's age, the possible suspect, and how long ago the potential abuse may have occurred. But you should follow certain guidelines. First, have the conversation in private. Be aware of your body language: Lean forward, make eye contact, and get close to his eye level to help your child feel more comfortable, says psychologist Julie Medlin, Ph.D., coauthor with Steven Knauts, Ph.D., of Avoiding Sexual Dangers: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child.

       Immediately reassure your child that you believe him and that he did the right thing by telling you. Keep your questions open-ended ("What did you do together?" "What happened next?"), avoiding detailed ones that are suggestive, such as "Did he put his mouth on your penis?"

       Unfortunately, some parents deny the abuse ("Your Uncle John would never do such a thing!"), blame the child ("How could you let this happen?"), or become hysterical ("I'll kill him!"). Such responses can cause kids to shut down or alter their story out of fear. Instead, reiterate to your child that you are not upset with him and that it's not his fault.

       If there's any good news here, it's this: "Sexually abused children who receive support and help can and do heal," says David Finkelhor, Ph.D., director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. Research has shown that the majority of sexually abused kids grow up with no significant mental-health or behavioral problems, he adds. The factors that appear to help include social support, strong self-esteem, and a child's understanding that she was not to blame for the abuse. Child psychologists and psychiatrists with specialized training can help kids begin the process of overcoming the trauma. This is why it's so crucial for children to speak up. "Keeping the secret can subliminally reinforce feelings of shame that can be harmful later in life," says Houser.

       Though as a child I chose not to disclose my abuse—fearing that it would cause turmoil in our close-knit community—I thrived anyway. But I am well aware that I'm more fortunate than many people who have been through a similar experience. When I try to understand why I came out of the experience relatively unscathed, I believe it stemmed from my self- confidence and my refusal to take any blame. Both were inspired by my parents' unconditional love.

Preventing Abuse: An Age-By-Age Guide

Depending on your child's developmental stage, you'll need to focus on specific issues and address (or avoid) certain topics.
Ages 2-4
Use the right language. "Skip the euphemisms," says Robin Sax. "Call a vagina a vagina and a penis a penis." This decreases potential confusion and improves your child's ability to discuss sexual situations.

Explain what's private. Tell her that besides herself, her parents, and her doctor (and caregiver if your child's still in diapers), no one should touch her private parts. If anyone does, she can tell you and you won't be mad.
Give him ownership of his body. Has a stranger ever ruffled your child's hair, telling you how cute he is? Your tendency may be to politely tolerate the behavior. But it's a great teachable moment. Saying "I don't feel comfortable having someone we don't know touching my kids" models to your child that it's okay to say "no" to touch—even from outwardly "nice" people.
Be a safe refuge. You may think this is obvious to your child, but explicitly state that she can tell you if she ever feels confused or scared about anything and that you'll help and love her no matter what has happened.
Break the taboo around sexuality. If your 4-year-old asks where babies come from, for instance, give her a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. "If we tell a child she's not old enough to know, or to not ask such questions, then we've given the message that this subject is off-limits," says Robin Castle.
Ages 5-8
Reinforce boundaries. Support your child if he wants to say "No, thank you" to hugs or kisses from relatives. If your son is squirming away as Grandma leans in give him a kiss, you can say, "Vincent isn't really in the mood for a kiss right now, and that's okay, isn't it, Grandma?" suggests Linda E. Johnson.

Head off guilty feelings. Don't wait until you suspect something is wrong. "Kids need to hear that it is never their fault if someone behaves sexually with them and that they can always come to you," says Jolie Logan, CEO of Darkness to Light. In doing so, you help take away the perpetrator's most powerful weapons—shame and fear. Bathtime is one opportunity to talk about bodies and boundaries, says Logan ("I want you to understand that people shouldn't touch your private parts, or ask you to touch theirs"). Or use current events: "There are grown-ups who like to do inappropriate things with children, and it's my job as a parent to keep you safe. You can always come to me if you feel uncomfortable."
Teach Internet safety. Many experts consider kids this age too young to be online by themselves. Use parental controls to limit her access, and explain that people are not always who they claim to be online. Insist your child never disclose personal information, and ask her to tell you if she ever feels uncomfortable about messages she receives.
Ages 9 and up
Continue the conversation. As children near adolescence, their peers could sexually threaten them. Indeed, your child's own budding sexuality may get him into situations that offenders may readily take advantage of. Look for chances to talk about this; it can include brainstorming ways for your child to avoid or get out of uncomfortable situations with peers. Reinforce that it is never a child's fault when someone mistreats her.

Monitor devices. Kids can easily, and often accidentally, access porn through smartphones and gaming systems such as Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP that can be connected to the Internet. "We're seeing a record- high number of these cases in our practice," says Dr. Julie Medlin. "Most parents have no idea that their kids can access porn so easily in this way, nor do they understand just how much of a negative impact such exposure can have on the child's sexuality." Consult your device's user guide to enable parental controls and limit access to certain games with mature content and to manage Web browsing, chat features, and purchases.
Help identify trusted adults. Many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents, Sax says. So she encourages teaching kids to seek out adults whom they feel comfortable turning to when something is bothering them. She adds that they should continue to tell until someone acts on the issue. By law, teachers and school counselors must report suspected abuse to authorities, and in 18 states (and Puerto Rico), all adults who suspect abuse are required to report.

    Where to turn for help

    Childhelp USA maintains a 24-hour National Child Abuse Hotline.
    National Children's Alliance has nearly 700 advocacy centers nationwide and helps with the process of reporting and recovering from abuse.
    Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has a free, confidential, secure service that allows victims past and present to get help via its phone and online hotlines.
    Stop it Now! also offers a phone and an e-mail Helpline dedicated to sexual-abuse prevention. Its Ask Now! advice column features actual situations so people can seek guidance for their own concerns.

    Article By Jessica Snyder Sachs from
    Article link

    Monday, March 20, 2017

    Sick, dying and raped in America's nursing homes - a CNN Investigation

    As a rape victim I can personally account for how horrible and life changing it is. I hope you find this article as informative as I did.Sick, dying and raped in America’s nursing homes – a CNN Investigation
    February 22nd, 2017

    Sick, dying and raped in America’s nursing homes – a CNN Investigation

    They go to nursing homes to be cared for. Instead, the unthinkable is happening at facilities across the country: Vulnerable seniors are being raped and sexually abused by the very people paid to care for them.
    Senior Writers Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken provide a shocking and detailed account of the rape and sexual abuse occurring in nursing homes across the country — and the systemic failures of nursing homes and state regulators to stop it.
    The graphic reports of abuse they uncovered are horrifying.  
    • 83-year-old Sonja Fischer fled war-time Indonesia as a young girl only to be raped by a nursing assistant during the “final, most vulnerable days of her life."
    • An 88-year-old California woman only had sex with one man her entire life - her husband of nearly 70 years —  then contracted a sexually transmitted disease from her alleged rapist.
    • One elderly man with paralysis was sexually abused and forced to eat feces out of his adult diapers by a group of nursing aides.

    As part of the five-month investigation, CNN Correspondent Ana Cabrera confronted multiple nursing homes where caregivers were accused of sexually assaulting multiple residents before eventually being convicted of rape.
    Ellis and Hicken also read through thousands of government documents to conduct a detailed analysis of federal data - the first of its kind.
    Some of the findings: CNN found that more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited for mishandling or failing to investigate or prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and abuse at their facilities between 2013 and 2016. Nearly 100 of these facilities have been cited multiple times during the same period. At least a quarter were allegedly perpetrated by aides, nurses and other staff members. 
    The reporters also traveled to the small town of Waynesville, North Carolina, to tell the story of one certified nursing assistant who worked at multiple facilities in the area and now stands accused of rape. This deeply reported account comes from police reports, court documents, interviews with the alleged victims and even the accused rapist, who denied  the charges from jail.
    Read the full investigation here.

    Original Link @

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    Diseases and Conditions of Child Abuse by Mayo Clinic

    I know most of us think there is no way our child could be suffering from abuse because we know our children so well. No one thought I was abused until I came forward as an adult. Please read and help save future victims of abuse.

    A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or family friends. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:
    • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
    • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
    • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence
    • An apparent lack of supervision
    • Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus
    • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home
    • Attempts at running away
    • Rebellious or defiant behavior
    • Attempts at suicide
    Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.

    Physical abuse signs and symptoms

    • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
    • Injuries that don't match the given explanation
    • Untreated medical or dental problems

    Sexual abuse signs and symptoms

    • Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age
    • Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
    • Blood in the child's underwear
    • Statements that he or she was sexually abused
    • Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain
    • Abuse of other children sexually

    Emotional abuse signs and symptoms

    • Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
    • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
    • Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
    • Depression
    • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
    • Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus
    • Desperately seeks affection
    • A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school
    • Loss of previously acquired developmental skills

    Neglect signs and symptoms

    • Poor growth or weight gain
    • Poor hygiene
    • Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
    • Taking food or money without permission
    • Eating a lot in one sitting or hiding food for later
    • Poor record of school attendance
    • Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care
    • Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation
    • Indifference

    Parental behavior

    Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:
    • Shows little concern for the child
    • Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
    • Denies that any problems exist at home or school, or blames the child for the problems
    • Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"
    • Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
    • Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so
    • Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
    • Severely limits the child's contact with others
    • Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all
    Although most child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain or physical injury — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.

    When to see a doctor

    If you're concerned that your child or another child has been abused, seek help immediately.
    If the child needs immediate medical attention, call 911 or your local emergency number. Depending on the situation, contact the child's doctor, a local child protective agency, the police department, or a 24-hour hotline such as Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453).
    Keep in mind that health care professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to the appropriate county or state authorities.

    Original Article @

    Thank you for reading. I hope this helps you or a loved one.

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

    Over 90% of sexually abused children are abused by someone known by the child or family.

    If you eliminate or reduce potential for children to be in isolated, one-on-one situations with adults or other youth, you dramatically reduce risk.

    Children often keep abuse a secret, but barriers can be broken down by talking openly about topics like body safety, sex, and boundaries. One of the best defenses against child sexual abuse is our relationship with children.

    Don't expect obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused. Signs are often there, but you have to know what to look for. Emotional or behavioral signals are more common, and may range from "too perfect behavior" to anger and rebellion.

    Disclosure, discovery, and suspicions of sexual abuse provide opportunities to intervene on behalf of a child.

    Friday, December 30, 2016

    Emotionally Abusive Relationships: Part 2

    Emotionally Abusive Relationships: Part 2


    DesignPicsInc/Deposit Photos

    In Part One this series, I offered a relationship scenario that subtly but powerfully indicated some of the manifestations of emotional abuse.  Research shows that women and men equally take on the role of either the abuser or the person who is victimized. Emotional abuse can occur in any kind of relationship: intimate partners; a parent and a child; two friends; siblings; a boss and his or her employee; or between colleagues.  Although the emotionally abusive interplay between people can fly under the radar or be minimized or rationalized by either person, the cumulative effect takes a profound toll, particularly on one’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  Here are just a few of the classic red flags to look for when considering the possibility that the dynamics in a relationship are emotionally abusive:
    • Communication is designed to humiliate, shame, or demean.  The abuser enjoys “finding fault” with or “correcting” their partner, frequently pointing out their mistakes as a way to put them down both privately and in front of other people.
    • The abuser frequently belittles or disregards the other person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions, or ideas, making it unsafe for them to freely or safely express themselves. In addition, they disregard the other person’s right to privacy or boundaries.
    • Teasing and sarcasm are employed to make the other person appear foolish. Yet when the victim complains they are accused of being “overly sensitive” or not having a sense of humor.
    • The abuser seeks to control all aspects of the relationship through financial withholding, verbal or physical intimidation, sex, granting or denying “permission,” stalking or harassing, or by making unilateral decisions that impact the other person.
    • The victim often feels “punished” by the abuser and over time is brainwashed into believing that they deserve the maltreatment they’ve received.
    • The abuser is usually emotionally distant and unavailable, forcing their partner to “work for” even the smallest degree of validation, support, or comfort. The victim is also made to feel guilt for wanting any emotional connection at all.
    Since all of these behaviors are “normalized” or justified by the abuser, they create tremendous confusion and self-doubt in the victim.  Part of why it’s so difficult for the victim to summon the courage to leave an emotionally abusive relationship is because they continually question their right to be upset, afraid, angry, or unhappy.  In these situations, the support, guidance and encouragement of a well trained professional who understands the nuances of emotional abuse becomes a necessary resource.
    If you’ve found the strength to leave this kind of relationship, please share your story to inspire others.

    About the Author

    I hope you liked this article as much as I did.

    Thursday, December 15, 2016


    Holiday Mental Health: Merriment When You Don’t Feel Merry

    Do you hate the holidays? The holiday season affects mental health. All the merriment can increase a sense of depression, anxiety, and isolation. Festivities can exacerbate the stresses and symptoms of eating disorders. In general, the people, sights, smells, and sounds can be overwhelming for almost anyone living with a mental illness.
    The holiday season is here, wanted or unwanted, but you do have some control (Manage Your Mental Illness Through the Holidays). You can choose to deal with the merriment in a way that works for you even when you don't feel merry. Try these suggestions to aid your mental health through the holiday season:
    • Let time be on your side. If you must go to a merry place but don't want to, tell the host that you can only stay for a while. Knowing that you can leave at a set time can help you endure.
    • Busy yourself. Do crowds or small talk make you anxious? Distance yourself by staying busy doing something other than mingle.
    • Be selective. Chose one or two events to attend, and then politely decline other invitations.
    • Make yourself merry. If you don't have holiday festivities in your life, be merry for yourself. Pamper yourself, do what you love, and create a gratitude list.
    Holidays do take a toll on mental health. Even if you don't feel merry, there are ways to tolerate the merriment of the season.

    Related Articles Dealing with Mental Health and the Holidays


    Tuesday, November 29, 2016

    Emotionally Abusive Relationships - Part One

    Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

    Emotionally Abusive Relationships - Part One

    A silent killer of self-esteem.
    Source: Wikimedia Commons

    Recently I was sitting in a Starbucks catching up on my e-mail when it became impossible not to overhear the conversation happening in such close proximity at the next table.  A young couple was engaged in the seemingly benign task of deciding what kind of coffees to order.  What grabbed my attention was the subtle but powerful way in which the husband continually dismissed his wife’s timid declaration about what she wanted to drink. “I’ll have a latte,” she said in a whisper.  “You don't really want a latte,” he said with calm authority, “You claim you want a latte but then you never finish it,” he added without humor. “I don't want to order something you’re not gonna drink.”  His wife dropped her head and took on a kind of collapsed body posture.  It sounded like a father chastising a small child. She immediately acquiesced, “Okay, then don't order me anything.”
    For the next 20 minutes they sat there.  He took his time with his large coffee drink and she patiently waited, drinking nothing.  He took out his phone and focused on it as if she weren’t there. The few times she tried to initiate conversation he either ignored her or put up his hand and subtly shook his head no, a clear non-verbal sign that let her know she was interrupting him and whatever he was attending to on his phone was more important.  When he was finished he said, “Okay, let’s go.” She dutifully got up and followed a few steps behind him as they left the coffee shop.
    In all honesty there were several different times when I wanted to intervene.  Despite the fact that he never raised his voice, I could sense how controlling he was and how submissive she needed to be.  Looking at it through a therapeutic lens it was a powerful example of an emotionally abusive relationship. These are relationships that can seem unremarkable to the outside world. She had no visible signs of physical trauma, although I would argue that her constricted body language and timid voice spoke volumes. They were both very well dressed and the scenario of sitting in Starbucks seemed innocent enough. He never yelled at her and his dismissive gestures were extremely subtle.  Probably to an untrained eye, the entire encounter would have been ignored.
    Although emotional abuse can be subtle the impact is profound and can create intense self-doubt, fear, anxiety, anger, and depression
    I have worked with many women and several men, too, who were genuinely surprised at my suggestion that they were in an emotionally abusive relationship.  The word “abusive” is most often associated with overt behaviors that cause physical harm.  But dynamics of control, intimidation, treating a partner as “less than,” financially withholding, minimizing or belittling their thoughts, feelings, and needs are important signs that are often rationalized or excused by the victim. They are, in fact, indicators of emotional abuse that may or may not escalate to other manifestations of maltreatment.
    Everyone has the right to feel safe, respected, validated, understood, and supported in their personal relationships. No one has the right to use power or control to manipulate, subjugate, or demean their partner. Although emotional abuse can be subtle the impact is profound and can create intense self-doubt, fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. If you are in a relationship where it doesn’t feel safe or productive to use your voice, or you’ve been made to feel unworthy, I urge you to get the support you deserve so you can re-claim your dignity, your voice, and your basic human rights.

    In Part Two of this series, we will review some of the signs of emotional abuse in more detail.
    Deborah Hunter-Marsh

    I hope you liked this article as much as I did. I will post the second part as soon as it's posted on the website.
    Here's a link to the original article.

    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect

    Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect

    Every child has a right to a safe childhood and a life free from violence. The experience of child abuse and neglect infringe upon that right.
    The effects of abuse affect each child differently. While the effects of abuse can be severe and long-lasting, children who have been abused or exposed to violence can and do go on to have healthy and productive childhoods and adult lives. Children are resilient, and being able to discuss and guide our children through a recovery process is crucial to their success. It is often the first step towards healing. In most cases, once their safety is assured, children can overcome the effects of trauma through professional counseling or other supportive interventions.

    Developmental and psychological and effects

    The brain develops at an incredible pace during the early developmental stages of infancy and childhood. Studies about early childhood development indicate that the brain develops in response to experiences with caregivers, family and the community, and that its development is directly linked to the quality and quantity of those experiences. Meeting a child’s needs during these early stages creates emotional stability and security that is needed for healthy brain development. Repeated exposure to stressful events can affect the brain’s stress response, making it more reactive and less adaptive. With time a child may react as if danger is always present in their environment regardless of what the presenting situation actually is.1
    Research has found that children exposed to violence or abuse, if left unaddressed or ignored, are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems in the future.2 Children who are abused may not be able to express their feelings safely and as a result, may develop difficulties regulating their emotions. As adults, they may continue to struggle with their feelings, which can lead to depression or anxiety.3
    The following are some of possible effects of child abuse and neglect on a child’s mental health:
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Dissociation
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents
    • Withdrawn and/or difficulty connecting with others
    • Flashbacks
    • Increased hypervigilance
    • Difficulty sleeping
    The overall impact of abuse also depends on the child’s natural reactions to stress and ways of coping with stressful situations. Other factors can include age at which the trauma occurred, previous exposure to unrelated traumatic incidents and extent of therapy or timing of intervention.

    Physical effects

    Children are more physically susceptible to injury than adults as their bodies are still in development. When a child is being physically abused or neglected some of these injuries are apparent. However, there are times when a perpetrator is careful not to leave marks or injuries that are visible so that the abuse is not discovered. Being able to recognize the physical effects of abuse can be crucial in identifying an abusive situation and taking steps to protect a child from further abuse or neglect.
    These are some common effects observed in children who have been physically or sexually abused and/or neglected:
    • Bruises, welts or swelling
    • Sprains or fractures
    • Burns
    • Lacerations or abrasions
    • Difficulty in walking or sitting
    • Torn, stained or bloody clothing
    • Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
    • Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
    • Lack of adequate supervision, nutrition or shelter
    • Poor hygiene
    • Inappropriate dress
    Children may develop these as ways to cope with complex trauma, or perhaps even to forget or suppress the traumatizing memories.
    Possible emotional and behavioral effects of trauma include:
    • Eating disorders
    • Drug use
    • Risky sexual decision-making
    • Self-harm
    • Troubled sleeping
    • Discomfort with physical touch
    For more information, learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect here.

    Effects on children who witness domestic violence

    The emotional toll on children who witness threats or violence against others can be substantial, especially when those involved are familiar to the child and the violence takes place in the home. Children may be affected when they witness domestic violence, regardless of whether or not they are directly abused.
    Current research has found that children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems, including anxiety, depression and academic problems. The research also suggests that some children who have witnessed domestic violence show no symptoms of psychological distress.
    Children's responses may depend on the severity and frequency of the abuse, the availability of family and community support, and the child's resilience. Once their safety is assured, most children can overcome the effects of trauma through professional counseling or other supportive interventions.

    Once their safety is assured, children who have experienced abuse or neglect can go on to heal and thrive. Being able to discuss and guide our children through a recovery process is crucial to their success, and often the first step towards healing. Most children who have been abused go on to recover and live healthy, productive lives.

    Next section: Resources

    Previous section: About the issue

    1 Stien, Phyllis T. and Kendall, Joshua, Psychological Trauma and Developing Brain: Neurobiological Based Interventions for Troubled Children, 2004, The Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press.
    2 Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect,” Factsheets, (2008),
    3 Smith, Melinda and Segal, Jeanne, “Child Abuse & Neglect: Recognizing, Preventing, and Reporting Child Abuse,” (June 2013),

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    Active Bystanding: It’s a Jungle Out There!

    We said that Bystander Prevention is getting way out ahead of any harm to a child by being alert to potential boundary violations and grooming, and essentially heading them off at the pass.

    One fine summer morning my partner and I went to the big farmers market at our local university. We go there just about every Saturday.

    We buy most of our produce from a particular vendor that we like. I’ll call him James. He is a wonderful person and he practices solid ethics at his farm. We’re not the kind of friends that go places together, but we see him and his family every week. That Saturday morning we were in their booth at the same time as this other fellow who was obviously a family friend. You could tell they knew each other well. James and the man chatted a bit, and then James turned away to wait on another customer. My partner and I were nearby in line.

    All I can say is that this family friend hugged and touched the young teen daughter in a way that alarmed both of us. I’ll call it near-groping. It did not look good at all. The girl was definitely squirming and cringing, and I was about to crawl out of my skin.
    I’ll admit we were both paralyzed in that moment. Neither one of us did anything. It was a brief exchange and the girl managed to extract herself in probably less than 5 seconds, but we saw what we saw. We paid the older son for our vegetables, and as we walked away we checked in with each other. Yes, we were both aghast.

    Now as you know, I’m in the sexual abuse prevention business, so I check myself regularly about my reactions. I worry I can be quick on the trigger. Also, I really didn’t know what I should do in that moment. We went home.

    In hindsight I can say that what we decided to do next was not what I would do today, some 4 years later. We wrote an anonymous letter to the father. We told him we had been to his booth and exactly what we saw – that his daughter had been hugged and touched by the man in a way that appeared sexual and was definitely uncomfortable for her. We described her reaction. We described the family friend. We asked him to please check in with his daughter about the relationship and we enclosed the Darkness to Light’s booklet The 5 Steps to Protecting our Children.

    I’ll give myself maybe a B- for that one.

    Today I would be a lot more direct. I honestly don’t remember why we sent the letter anonymously. I still wouldn’t say something right there in public, out of concern for the girl feeling ashamed; but I’d call the father by phone to share what I saw. I’d do this because I’d want to open a dialogue in case he needed advice, or just so that he could process what I was telling him. I’d also want to be as sure as I could be that yes, he’d actually talk to his daughter. And I wouldn’t second-guess myself so much about my “bias.” But at least we did something and what we did was pretty strong.

    Monday, October 17, 2016

    Brown Signs Bill Revoking California's 10-Year Statute Of Limitation On Rape Cases

    SACRAMENTO (AP) — The emotional stories of women who say they were sexually assaulted more than a decade ago by comedian Bill Cosby prompted California state lawmakers to approve a bill to eliminate the state’s 10-year limit on filing rape and related charges.
    On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he has approved the legislation to revoke that limitation.  Beginning next year the bill will end the statute of limitations on certain rape and child molestation cases. Full article here