No more silence: It’s never too late to start healing

This video started with a conversation. In fact, it started with many private and professional conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused about how difficult it was to speak about what happened to them as a child, about how their lives and relationships had been negatively impacted and about how isolated and alone they felt. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted this over representation and sexual abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within government, community and church run institutions and the difficulties they face in being heard and accessing support.

YOUTUBE Living Well: No More Silence Healing from Sexual Abuse

Anthony Newcastle, Gordon Glenbar and I were discussing how to reach out and offer further support and encouragement to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused in childhood. Many of these men have said they will never speak publicly about what was done to them, they have said how difficult it is to access support, how they do not know who to trust and how they are unsure if healing is even possible. These men have also said how important the connection to community and country is for them and how the encouragement and support of fellow community members is particularly meaningful and important for them. —Gary Foster, Living Well.

A starting conversation with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander men

by Anthony Newcastle, Natjul.com.
In late 2015, I met with Gordon Glenbar, an Aboriginal man working as a special projects officer for Link Up, supporting community members to engage with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Gary Foster from Anglicare: Living Well Service who works with men who had been sexually abused in childhood. Gordon and I have known each other a long time. We’ve always talked about our community, about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and about the ongoing challenges our communities face confronting the negative impacts of colonisation and resulting inter-generational traumas.

Gordon, Gary and I spoke together of how to raise awareness and offer support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait men who have been sexually abused in childhood. We spoke of how individuals, families and communities are so often struggling to cope and live life in the present that the subject of helping men sexually abused as children is not talked about. We discussed how difficult it was to raise this subject, how the men themselves struggled to talk about it. We acknowledged the importance of qualified and connected individuals and organisations to lead discussions and negotiate community workshops and the extensive work done by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in addressing sexual violence. We also discussed how important it was for local Aboriginal men to take responsibility to start supportive conversations with Aboriginal men and their communities about this issue.

The didgeridoo group

Every second Sunday I run ‘Didgeri’ at an inner city park in Brisbane. Didgeri is an Aboriginal men’s didgeridoo group. Didgeri has between 9 and 15 men. Didgeri is a place or gathering where we as Aboriginal men can come along and learn the didgeridoo as a way to connect or re-connect with culture and heritage. It is also a place where we talk about community, identity, culture, about raising kids, dealing with anger, about family and about being a good dad or husband.

All the men who come along know they are welcome to bring a son or nephew, grand-son or friend. Didgeri is a place where Aboriginal men can build and enrich connection. No alcohol or drugs, no carry on or yukai. The boys and young men are encouraged to show respect to older men, to each other and to the purpose of the gathering. At times wives, mothers or grand-mothers do come along. They generally come to drop off family and say hello, but they don’t stay as part of Didgeri.

It was at Didgeri that I raised the idea of the men putting their voices to supporting men who had been sexually abused as children and now living with the consequences. We discussed the idea of us, as every day community members acting to help raise awareness and offer support.

The discussions at Didgeri

On a couple of occasions I found myself standing with three or four other men, all leaning on our didgeridoos talking about what to do about this, and how to support the men and families who suffer as a result of this issue. We talked about community and organisational responses to women who have been sexually abused, and of the advocacy groups, which so rightly wrap around these. None of us could think of a group or advocacy organisation established for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who were sexually abused as boys.

Anthony and Gordon.

We talked about taboos and silences within the community. The idea of creating a video that makes a public statement addressing this issue started to sound important. It would be an expression of solidarity and support, by community members, for community members. It would be a way to start a conversation.

There was some talk about approaching well known footballers to see if they would like to participate. I’m happy now that talk lasted about 10 minutes before we moved on. Real happy. We had some quiet respectful discussion about who would be involved, we did not want the message being misunderstood, or not responded to, because we included men facing domestic violence charges or public nuisance charges. What was significant here was that ‘we as men’ from the community were talking about supporting men who had suffered sexual abuse as boys and young men – something we had not discussed before.

We talked about how men struggled, how many had attempted suicide, some dying. We talked about the guilt and pain many men carry about not being able to protect their friends, brothers and sisters from the abuser when they were children.

What became part of our discussions, is that by putting our voices and our images to this, we are giving voice to something that is almost silent, something almost invisible. We are saying silence is no longer OK. We want to lend our voices to acknowledge this as a challenge in the lives of men in our community. We very much wanted to offer support to families that are falling apart, where wives and children are seeing their husband and fathers become changed men because the demons from the past visit them late at night and torment them during their day.

We talked about how men found it difficult to talk with their families about why they are coming apart at the seams. Even though these men love their families dearly and would die without them, the taboo around this issue means it is difficult to speak about. Men do what men too often do. Push it down, ignore it, drink your way through it, yell at it, yell at others, feel ashamed, feel responsible, feel judged, feel alone, blame yourself, but don’t talk about it. As one man said:

“How the bloody hell do you talk about it anyway, and to whom?”

Doing something

We want to find ways to talk about sexual abuse of males that invite participation. We want to communicate this in a way that invites empathy, understanding and respect, and says no more. Over the weeks we discussed how, if people aren’t talking about it, then nothing is being done. Some of our discussions had long pauses, or some changing of subject, before resuming. Some men stood in silence. We concluded that if nothing is being done about it and our brothers and our sisters lives are falling apart because of it, let’s do something.

We wanted to address the isolation and silence. We wanted to say,

“We know this happened to you and we are sorry it did. We want you to know that you are still our brother.”

We want to help address the fear of being judged and the feelings of shame. The shame is not yours to carry.

We talked about the importance of speaking, not just to men who have been sexually victimised, but to men and women across our communities.

Over the following weeks I rang, met with, and talked to about 20 people. All of the Didgeri group wanted to participate in some way. There were men who said straight away, “Yes, I want to support that and I will say it to camera.” Some said that they really wanted to offer support in some way, but because of family, work or how their involvement might be seen, they couldn’t be part of the video at present. There were men who said that although they felt for the fellas, they didn’t know if they could do it, as any talk of sexual abuse of children was hard for them to be around. Those who did not appear on camera, shook our hands and said, “Good on you for doing this.”

Making the video

Eleven of us gathered in a studio at the 4BE Multi-cultural radio station at Kangaroo Point to record our bits. We decided that in the room we would have only the person speaking to camera, the camera operator and myself, in order to help people relax and feel comfortable. We wanted to remove any shame-job. But with eleven Aboriginal people together in the waiting room, among the chats and yarns, people talking about who their mob were, and where their people are from, as always, family reconnections were found. “Hey, your mob from Roma? Your uncle is George from that cattle station? That’s my uncle too, that’s my tribe, we cousins.”

As people felt more comfortable with each other, as personal connections were made and a feeling of being in this together came over the group, then people started pairing up, saying, “Do you mind if I do it with Wayne, because he my cousin and we never met before.”

Others would say things like, “Brother, I never done anything like this before, can you sit with me and do one together?”

Before we knew it everyone was in the room supporting each other with comments like, “Oh that sounded deadly (really good) what you said then sis.” Or, “You two fellas look and sound good there when you said that.”

Ownership had shifted. Now the participants were making suggestions and talking about how good a project this was to be involved with.

It was on this day in the studio that some of participants spoke of how personal this was for them, their families and community. This issue impacted on members of the Didgeri and had not been discussed before that day. The gathering became an opportunity to talk and make a difference. The mood in the room changed, embracing connection, listening, caring, sharing and laughing together, offering support and genuine regard.

Talk turned to, “When this being released, we going to get to see it before?” and, “Do you think we can do another one?”

Six weeks later

It is now NAIDOC week and this Sunday afternoon we will have a first public showing of the video on a big screen at the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre in South Brisbane, where the guests of honour are the eleven people who participated, their families and friends. Over the weeks I have been constantly asked by those involved about when everyone gets to see the video.

This Sunday many of our Didgeri group will bring their didgeridoos and we will have our didgeridoo lesson aside before the video showing. My wife is making sandwiches, a curry and rice and some finger food. Gordon has been a constant source of encouragement and Gary has had almost boundless energy to keep pace, to bring this project together.

Now only days from the launch of our video I think about our first meetings (Gary, Gordon and I). I think of how appreciative I am of those individuals and organisations who work to address sexual violence and its impacts on our communities. I am however, particularly pleased that this project and these discussions happened in and amongst a group many would call grass roots. I am pleased that Aboriginal men and women stepped forward and put their face and voice to raising awareness and generating discussion that offers support to men who have been sexually abused in childhood, as well as their families. Community taking action and responsibility for community.

I was reminded of a discussion about suicide prevention and response I had with a 72 year old Aboriginal man on a remote Cape York community some years ago. When I asked him, “What can we do about this lack of counsellors and social workers and psychologists who can support people in remote places like this?” The old man said:

“When someone is finding it hard to live, we all know they might be finding it hard to live because we are a small town. Sometimes the best thing you can do for somebody else is go and see them, and sit on their porch and sit down and have a cup of tea with them. Even if you don’t know what to say about that thing that is a problem for them, you can still have a cup of tea with them. And they will know.”

–Anthony Newcastle, Natjul.com

A big thank you

We wish to express our appreciation to the men and women who have supported the development of the No More Silence: It’s Never Too Late to Start Healing video. This video reflects the power of everyday community members to make a difference.

Profound impacts

We are only too aware of the profound impacts child sexual abuse can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and men, girls and women and their communities:

  • Isolation, feeling alone and different.
  • Guilt, shame, self blame, distrust.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, hurt, angry, not good enough.
  • Disconnection from family, community and country.
  • Mental health problem, depression, anxiety.
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems.
  • Suicide, self harm.
  • Relationship and sexual difficulties.
  • Drink and drug abuse.
  • Involvement with police and criminal justice system, prison.
  • Physical health problems.

Barriers to speaking

Men sexually abused in childhood report multiple barriers to speaking about what happened and accessing support:

  • Fear he won’t be believed or will be judged.
  • Sense of shame.
  • Concern his sexuality or manhood will be questioned.
  • Worry he will be seen as less of a man or people might think he will go on to abuse.
  • Distrust of authority, police, of anyone.
  • Fear of being blamed or that he will face payback for speaking up.
  • Worry that he will fall apart if he starts talking.
  • Being told to keep quiet that the community is not ready to talk about this.
  • Wanting to protect family members and others who were abused.
  • Having no-one to talk with.
  • Pressure from the abuser and others to keep the silence.

As well as hearing how difficult it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to speak about childhood sexual abuse, we hear that the pressure not to talk increases the sense of isolation, and makes it difficult to get the help they deserve.

A conversation starter

The video is designed as a conversation starter. Sharing the video is one way for community members to raise awareness and offer support, encouragement and hope to those who have been sexually abused in childhood. It sends a message to all those who have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted across Queensland and throughout Australia to say:

You’re not responsible for what happened to you as a child.
You are not alone.
We care.
The blame is not yours to carry.
The shame is not yours to carry.
Keep talking until you get the help you deserve.
Take care of yourself, you’re worth it.
It’s never too late to start healing.

A developing conversation

Our hope is now to continue to develop this conversation and further improve responses to those who have been sexually abused.This ‘No more silence: It’s never too late to start healing’ video is part of a collection of resources developed in partnership with the Brisbane Didgeri Group and Natjul Performing Arts. Other videos in this series are ‘No straight lines: We all benefit from maps of life’s territories’ and ‘Support: Contributions to healing.’

Further information and support

If you are a man who has been sexually abused, or someone who cares about him, and you want more information and support. Check out the many support articles we have on the website:

Additional support

As well as the Living Well resources you can find more information and support by contacting the below services.

Crisis services

MensLine Australia
Website: mensline.org.au
A national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns.
Phone 1300 78 99 78 (available 24/7)
Online counselling: https://mensline.org.au/want-to-talk/

Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline
Website: health.qld.gov.au/sexualassault
Lists a range of support services across QLD.
Phone: 1800 010 120

1800 Respect
Website: 1800respect.org.au
24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone in Australia who has experienced or been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Staffed by trauma specialist counsellors.
Phone: 1800 737 732
Online Counselling: 1800respect.org.au/telephone-and-online-counselling

Lifeline
Website: lifeline.org.au
24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention.
Phone: 131 114

Specialist services

Link Up (QLD) Aboriginal Corporation
Website: link-upqld.org.au
Provides counselling, healing and culturally appropriate support for indigenous Australians.
Phone: 1800 200 855

Healing Foundation
Website: healingfoundation.org.au
The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation with a focus on building culturally strong, community led healing solutions.
Phone: 02 6272 7500

Micah Projects Inc / Lotus Place (Find and Connect QLD)
Website: lotusplace.org.au
Support and resource service for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants.
Phone: 1800 161 109
Email: lotus@micahprojects.org.au

Relationships Australia QLD
Website: raq.org.au
Family, children and relationship counselling. Relationship Australia are committed to offering the best possible counselling, mediation, education and support services in a professional, relaxed and confidential environment.
Phone: 07 3423 6890
Phone: 1800 552 127
Government Funded

Bravehearts
Website: bravehearts.org.au
Specialist case management, counselling and telephone counselling for child and adult survivors, non-offending family members and friends. Services include counselling, support engaging with the Royal Commission, preparation of written statements, attending private sessions and public hearings.
Phone: 1800 272 831 (8am – 8pm AEST/AEDT, weekdays)
Email: rc@bravehearts.org.au

Blue Knot Foundation
Website: blueknot.org.au
(Formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse – ASCA). National professional phone counselling, information and support for adult survivors of child abuse with referral database of experienced professionals and agencies. Provides workshops for survivors, family members, partners and friends. Professional development for health professionals is also available.
Phone: 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST/AEDT 7 days)
Email: helpline@blueknot.org.au

Murrigunyah
Website: murrigunyah.org.au
Murrigunyah Family & Cultural Healing Centre is a community based sexual assault support service run by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women of Logan City.
Phone: (07) 3290 4254
Email: admin@murrigunyah.org.au

Additional info

BeyondBlue has programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and general information on mental health, including how to recognise depression and where to get help. Phone 1300 22 4636

Lifeline’s Mental Health Resource Centre offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People specific resources. Download PDF files on:

Your local hospital or doctor may be able to help you with counselling and support.

Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal Australia allows you to search a map to find Indigenous-specific mental health services across Australia.

Have a yarn

Have a yarn with:

Other mental health support services to talk about your feelings and get help.

Indigenous family support and healing groups and others in your mob to try to help reduce the stress of raising children.

Community health services

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS)
Call the ATSICHS Healing Centre on (07) 3240 8907 to access culturally appropriate counselling services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Brisbane affected by mental illness.

Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS)
The TAIHS Social and Mental Health Unit offers mental health counsellors and run regular men’s and women’s groups to help cope with:

  • Mental illness.
  • Family business.
  • Prison and court matters.

Phone TAIHS on (07) 4759 4022 to book a counselling session or join a group.

Palm Island Mental Health Service
At the Palm Island Mental Health Service Indigenous health workers support people with mental health issues in the local community.

Other remote support
Mental health support and counselling services are also available in these remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:

  • Burketown
  • Doomadgee
  • Gregory Downs
  • Karumba
  • Mornington Island
  • Normanton
  • Thursday Island

For more information phone the Vincent Campus – Cambridge Street Facility on (07) 4775 8100.

RETRIEVED https://www.livingwell.org.au/get-support/aboriginal-%20support-sexual-abuse/

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Knight only Public Predator?!

Resulting from Public Information available, there is great reluctance to have some of the Core recommendations of the CARC Final Report actioned (put into effect). From the Final Report’s Preface, the following topic grabbed many Survivours’ attention: ‘Why have some institutions not protected children?‘ Of particular interest is that some of these situations continue”:

I have never really been able to come to terms with was the part society played – or didn’t play, I guess, being the point.
Face Screaming in Fear

All institutions should prevent, identify and mitigate risks. An appropriate response should also be made, whenever CSA occurs. Thankfully, BBC’s PMSA is among the schools that have clearly outlined stages and processes, whenever anything occurs involving current students (Policies & Strategies). Of particular relevance is the PMSA Historical Abuse Redress Policy, which relates to official stages including (Procedure; Report and resolution; and Care strategy).

Blurred logo

A PDF of the latest PMSA Historical Abuse Redress Policyis available from https://www.pmsa-schools.edu.au/library/files/PMSA%20Historical%20Abuse%20Redress%20Policy%281%29.pdf

Under current Qld Laws, CSA Survivours may be limited to not being able to mention the monetary figures of Private Damages Claims, yet they are able to simply help others by letting them know they are not alone!

Kasurs child sex abuse victims struggle to rebuild their lives

Sound familiar? Great to read on of another’s coping with CSA!



HUSSAIN WALA: “I don’t regret speaking out, but since then, people have looked at me with strange eyes,” laments a 16-year-old Ahmed*.

He was one of 20 children sexually abused by a gang who sold videos of the acts and used them for blackmail purposes.

The police, who had conspicuously failed to act despite pleas from some parents, eventually arrested 37 men after clashes between relatives and authorities brought the issue into the media spotlight last summer, years after the abuse began.

Six months after one of the country’s biggest paedophilia abuse case broke, police now confirm 17 of the accused remain in prison awaiting trial, while three more are out on bail.

Read: Kasur child molestation case baseless, says inquiry report

This photograph taken on November 20, 2015, shows Hussain Khan Wala village in Punjab province, the scene of one of Pakistan’s worst child abuse cases. — AFP

But the young victims who defied taboos to seek justice say they have little hope for rebuilding their lives.

In recent years, more and more families in Pakistan have dared to speak out against sexual abuse of their children.

But the fight against predators remains in its infancy. 

Powerful taboos, gaps in legislation and a lack of awareness continue to fuel a phenomenon that remains hidden, yet deeply embedded within society.

Media glare

Ahmed drags his feet listlessly in the narrow winding streets of Hussain Khan Wala, a large village in rural Punjab. 

Like the other abused teens, he feels stigmatised and without any kind of support after five years of abuse.

“I feel terrible when my friends stare at me. I know what they are thinking,” he mutters. “My classmates and teachers look down on me, so I stopped going to school.”

Also read: Kasur sex abuse ─ ‘I thought of killing myself everyday’

Though the case finally made it to the national news media in July, the local police were found to have turned a blind eye to the crimes for several months “which amounts not only to criminal negligence, rather it was connivance”, according to a report by the National Commission for Human Rights.

Several of the accused belong to locally influential families.

It took a series of clashes between the victims’ families and police, in which dozens were injured, for politicians to act and demand arrests.

The families and victims were then served up to the media, with some local leaders placing the number of abused children at 280 — though that figure is believed to have been inflated as a result of attempts to leverage the tragedy for business and political gain.

Explore: Kasur child abuse case ‘not organised crime’

Authorities established that 20 youths were raped and sodomised, the only two sex crimes recognised under Pakistani law.

The country’s penal code does not prohibit sexual abuse that does not involve penetration, nor child pornography.

“This case shows there are no institutional structures to tackle sexual abuse or to protect children,” says Valerie Khan, the director of Group Development Pakistan, a local NGO which advocates legal reforms.

A law criminalising sexual abuse of children is currently being debated by Pakistan’s Senate.

These reforms are all the more urgent given the growing number of cases being reported, according to child rights’ group Sahil, which records statistics based on press reports in the absence of official data.

The group recorded fewer than 2,000 cases in 2008, but more than 3,500 in 2014, a rise it said “reflects an increase in social awareness of the problem”.

Post-Kasur: This project helps people break silence over child sexual abuse

Veteran human rights activist Hina Jilani said that while increased reporting was welcome, cases must be handled sensitively — noting that activists, judges and police were not trained in how to question child victims.

Another obstacle to greater reporting of crimes are the families themselves, who are often reluctant to intervene when they feel their “honour” is at stake, according to Jilani.

‘They should be sent away’

Eighteen-year-old Sara* says it was unreported childhood abuse, and the subsequent loss of her honour that drove her toward prostitution.

Forced to abandon her studies to work following the death of her father at the age of 16, she found herself at the mercy of an employer who she says raped her.

“If I would tell my family, they would not go to the police station,” says the frail young woman, because of the shame it would bring.

Read: Accused says children abused in his presence

It was difficult for her to make her complaint herself because “there (are) no lady police” at the station, she said, and she quit her job fearing more attacks.

Having lost her sense of worth, she turned to an intermediary at a beauty salon who guided her toward prostitution, which she now uses to support her family.

Wearing light make-up and modern but modest clothing, she has all the airs of a carefree high-schooler — apart from the fact she walks the streets alone at night.

Back in Hussain Khan Wala, the parents of abused children are waiting for the government to help them rebuild their lives anew elsewhere.

Hasan*, a labourer whose 17 year old son was among those abused, said “(They) should be sent to Islamabad or abroad because they can not study here, you must remove them from the atmosphere.”

─ *Names have been changed to protect identities of victims.

RETRIEVED https://www.dawn.com/news/1233985

The Secret Jehovah’s Witness Database of Child Molesters – The Atlantic

In what is becoming all- too-often a common thread, here’s Jehovah’s Witness (hidden) darkside:


PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEXEY SWALL

A former Jehovah’s Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.

In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses, sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions—Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse?—and mail it to Watchtower’s headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation’s confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.

Thus did the Jehovah’s Witnesses build what might be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades’ worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file. In recent decades, much of the world’s attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Yet all this time, Watchtower has refused to comply with multiple court orders to release the information contained in its database and has paid millions of dollars over the years to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are contained within.

That effort has been remarkably successful—until recently.

A white Priority Mail box filled with manila envelopes sits on the floor of Mark O’Donnell’s wood-paneled home office, on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Mark, 51, is the owner of an exercise-equipment repair business and a longtime Jehovah’s Witness who quietly left the religion in late 2013. Soon after, he became known to ex–Jehovah’s Witnesses as John Redwood, an activist and a blogger who reports on the various controversies, including cases of child abuse, surrounding Watchtower. (Recently, he has begun using his own name.)

When I first met Mark, in May of last year, he appeared at the front door of his modest home in the same outfit he nearly always wears: khaki cargo shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, white sneakers, and sweat socks pulled up over his calves. He invited me into his densely furnished office, where a fan barely dispelled the wafting smell of cat food. He pulled an envelope from the Priority Mail box and passed me its contents, a mixture of typed and handwritten letters discussing various sins allegedly committed by members of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Massachusetts. All the letters in the box had been stolen by an anonymous source inside the religion and shared with Mark. The sins described in the letters ranged from the mundane—smoking pot, marital infidelity, drunkenness—to the horrifying. Slowly, over the past couple of years, Mark has been leaking the most damning contents of the box, much of which is still secret.

Mark’s eyebrows are permanently arched, and when he makes an important point, he peers out above his rimless glasses, eyes widened, which lends him a conspiratorial air.

“Start with these,” he said.

Among the papers Mark showed me that day was a series of letters about a man from Springfield, Massachusetts, who had been disfellowshipped—a form of excommunication—three times. When the man was once again reinstated, in 2008, someone working in a division of Watchtower wrote to his congregation, noting that in 1989 he was said to have “allowed his 11-year-old stepdaughter to touch his penis … on at least two occasions.”

I was struck by the oddness of the language. It insinuated that the man had agreed to, rather than initiated, the sexual contact with his stepdaughter.                 

After I left Mark’s house, I tracked down the stepdaughter, now 40. In fact, she told me, she had been only 8 when her stepfather had molested her. “He was the adult and I was the kid, so I thought I didn’t have any choice,” she said. She was terrified, she told me. “It took me two years to go to my mom about it.”

Her mother immediately went to the congregation’s elders, who later called the girl and her stepfather in to pray with them. She remembers it as a humiliating experience.

Her stepfather was eventually disfellowshipped for instances that involved “fornication,” “drunkenness,” and “lying,” according to the letters. But according to the stepdaughter, his alleged molestation of her resulted only in his being “privately reproved,” a closed-door reprimand that is usually accompanied by a temporary loss of privileges, such as not being allowed to offer comments during Bible study or lead a prayer. The letters make no reference to police being notified; the stepdaughter said her mother was encouraged to keep the matter private, and no attempt was made to keep the stepfather away from other children. (Calls to the congregation’s Kingdom Hall—the Witness version of a church—for comment went unanswered.)

By the time the letters were written, the man was attending a different congregation and had married another woman with children; he is still part of that family today. Near the end of the final letter in Mark’s possession is a question: “Is there any responsibility on the part of either body of elders … to inform his current wife of his past history of child molestation?”

Mark O’Donnell’s childhood was an isolated one. His parents, Jerry and Susan, had started attending Jehovah’s Witness meetings in the mid-1960s. Another couple from Baltimore had told them of Watchtower’s prediction that the world would end in 1975, bringing death to all non-Witnesses and transforming Earth into a paradise for the faithful. In 1968, just after Mark was born, Jerry and Susan were group-baptized in a swimming pool in Washington, D.C. Mark was an only child, and he inherited his father’s peculiar love of record-keeping. Mark would show up to meetings at the Kingdom Hall with a briefcase full of religious texts.

As in any religion, there’s some variation among Jehovah’s Witnesses in how strictly they interpret the teachings that govern their faith; Mark’s upbringing seems to have been especially stringent. As a child, he attended at least five meetings a week, plus several hours of private Bible study. On Saturday mornings, he joined his parents in “field service,” knocking on doors in search of converts. He was taught that most people outside the organization were corrupted by Satan and, given the chance, would try to steal from him, drug him, or rape him. Mainstream books and magazines were considered the work of Satan. If he broke any of the religion’s main rules, he could be disfellowshipped, meaning even his own family would have to shun him.

Throughout Mark’s childhood, he heard elders cite Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever holds back his rod hates his son.” Mark’s parents took the lesson to heart and beat him frequently. The religion forbids celebrating birthdays, voting, serving in the military, and accepting blood transfusions, even in life-and-death situations. Witnesses were encouraged to devote themselves to bringing more converts into the religion before the end of the world arrived. “Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property” to spend their last days proselytizing, said a Watchtower publication in 1974. “Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.” Some Witnesses stopped going to the doctor, quit their jobs, or ran up debt.

But piety, Mark noticed, did not always translate to morality. When he was 12, Mark became suspicious of a local Witness named Louis Ongsingco, a flight attendant who would bring home Toblerone bars for the local Witness kids and invite them to his apartment to act out religious plays. Mark noticed Ongsingco touching young girls in a way that made him uncomfortable. He told an elder about his concerns. But rather than take action against Ongsingco, the elder told him what Mark had said. Days later, Ongsingco pulled Mark aside and scolded him.

Mark’s instincts seem to have been right. In 2001, one of Mark’s childhood friends, Erin Michelle Shifflett, along with four other women, sued Ongsingco for sexual assault. The cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Ongsingco died in 2016.

To Mark, the lesson was that for all the emphasis the elders placed on moral purity, there was no greater sin than speaking out against other Witnesses.

By the time Mark was in high school, in the early 1980s, 1975 had come and gone, but Watchtower had a new prediction for the apocalypse. It said that the world would end before the passing of the generation that was alive in 1914. At the time, the youngest members of that generation were 70, so the new prediction created a sense of urgency.

“My parents basically told me, ‘You’re not even going to live to graduate from college,’” Mark said. At 17, despite having a year of college credit and a guidance counselor imploring him to apply, he decided to settle for a high-school diploma. He was baptized and later started his exercise-equipment repair company. The business provided enough flexibility for him to perform 50 hours of field service for the Witnesses a month, which qualified him for the rank of auxiliary pioneer.

Though many Witnesses left the religion after 1975, membership was on the upswing by the 1990s, and the organization was building new Kingdom Halls. Mark was installing a sound system in a new hall in Baltimore in the fall of 1997 when a young woman named Kimmy Weber asked to borrow his ladder.

At 20, Kimmy was putting in more than 90 hours of field service a month, making her a full-fledged pioneer. She had completed a two-year program at a community college on a scholarship, and would later get permission from the local elders to get her bachelor’s degree. Mark was drawn to her drive and intensity. He tracked down her email address; they flirted over AOL Instant Messenger and were married within eight months. They wanted to start a family, but decided to wait until after the arrival of paradise on Earth, when they, and their children, would be perfect. In the meantime, Kimmy began opening their home to abused and abandoned cats.

As Mark’s business grew, he brought on employees, mostly other Witnesses. When he and Kimmy had saved enough money to buy the house across the street as a rental property, they filled its three units with other Witnesses. There were ski vacations, softball games, dinner parties, and game nights—always with friends who shared their faith.

But as much as Mark enjoyed his friends’ company, he started to chafe at the insularity of their social life. It felt less like intimacy and more like a self-imposed bubble. These frustrations eventually grew into suspicions about Watchtower itself. He’d heard rumors that the organization was covering up cases of pedophilia and child abuse. But Watchtower always dismissed such criticism as “apostate-driven lies.”

A few years after he and Kimmy married, he saw a protester outside a Witness convention holding a sign that read a jw elder molested me. “I looked at that sign,” Mark told me, “and I locked it in my brain. I’ll never forget it. I said to myself, There’s no way he’s lying. Nobody would stand out there and hold a sign that says an elder molested me unless it really happened. No way. He’s telling the truth.

Watchtower adjusted its estimates for the apocalypse several more times. In 2010, it introduced the Overlapping Generations theory, which claims that the end will come before the death of everyone who was alive at the same time as anyone who was alive in 1914. Mark found these revised predictions difficult to accept.

In late 2013, Mark had an extreme reaction to an antibiotic and was confined to his couch for several weeks, away from the meetings and Bible studies. Left alone with his thoughts, he began to admit to himself that he no longer believed Armageddon was imminent. The Jehovah’s Witnesses he knew were no more deserving of God’s mercy than the nonbelievers he’d met. And here he was, 45 years old and facing a health crisis. How much more of his life was he willing to waste inside the bubble?

That November, as he and Kimmy were preparing to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, Mark suddenly stopped packing and told Kimmy he couldn’t maintain the facade anymore. He never attended another meeting.

/ . . . Continued . . . /

RETRIEVED https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/03/the-secret-jehovahs-witness-database-of-child-molesters/584311/

Child abuse is 40 times more likely when single parents find new partners

Here are three steps to protect the children

Amy Wright Glenn

BY AMY WRIGHT GLENN 
PhillyVoice Contributor

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, the majority of the nearly 74 million children ages 18 and under live in a home with two parents, whether married or unmarried. Nearly 25 percent of children in America live with a single parent, usually their mother, though the number of children living with single fathers rose from 1 to 4 percent since 1960.

Most divorced adults eventually cohabitate or remarry again. For example, around 75 percent of divorced women remarry within 10 years post-divorce. Yet, the number is lower if the woman is a mother of a minor child. Perhaps one of the reasons why relates to the documented risk involved in bringing an unrelated adult male into the home. Sometimes referred to as the “abusive boyfriend syndrome,” scholars note there is “a statistically greater potential for instability” in homes where adults and children, who have no biological connection, reside.

“It comes down to the fact they don’t have a relationship established with these kids,” states Eliana Gil, clinical director for the national abuse-prevention group Childhelp. “Their primary interest is really the adult partner, and they may find themselves more irritated when there’s a problem with the children.”

Of course, not all stepparents or “bonus parents” (male or female) struggle to bond or love the children of their new partners. There are certainly many stories of blended families thriving. Their success depends on various “ingredients,” according to the American Psychological Association. April Eldemire, LMFT, writing for the Gottman Institute, affirms how “critical” it is for remarried couples to “learn how to communicate effectively and not be afraid to discuss sensitive topics as they arise.” Furthermore, fostering resilience through healthy family ritual and structure has been found to be more indicative of a child’s success rather than living in a first or second marriage household.

Nonetheless, “children of divorce – and later, remarriage – are twice as likely to academically, behaviorally and socially struggle as children of first-marriage families: About 20 to 25 percent struggle, compared with 10 percent, a range of research finds.”

They are also more likely to be hurt.

In their article “Child Abuse and Other Risks of Not Living with both Parents,” published in Ethology and Sociobiology, Martin Daly and Margo Wilson note: “If their parents find new partners, children are 40 times more likely than those who live with biological parents to be sexually or physically abused.” According to a Missouri-based study of children living in homes with unrelated adults, children are “nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents.” These are worrying statistics, both disturbing and scary.

To understand this increased risk of sexual or physical harm, it is helpful to consider the lack of oversight which occurs when both biological parents are no longer working as a team. Ideally, parents work together to teach children body safe rules, observe children in play particularly with older peers, and thoughtfully choose care providers. Post-divorce, this doesn’t always happen. Another explanation for these increased risks of harm connects to the potential negative/dangerous role older step/bonus siblings can play in the lives of younger children. (Even when sexual or physical abuse by an older step/bonus sibling is not a factor, children who live with step/bonus siblings are more aggressive.) Yet, most significantly, one must face the difficult truth that the primary cause of harm to children in blended family settings is the unrelated, usually male, adult – brought into the mix through romantic involvement with the biological parent.

How can we mitigate these serious risks?

As a divorced mother of a young boy, I reached out to Dr. Laura Markham, founder of Aha! Parenting and author of “Peaceful Parent: Happy Kids,” for advice. She shared her top three suggestions to “reduce the risk of sexual abuse/harm post-divorce to children.”

Markham strongly suggests the following (I quote her in full below):

DELAY DATING

“Your priority is your child’s emotional health, and that means not subjecting your child to a new partner or a series of partners,” Markham says. “Your child has a lot of adjusting to do and adding the element of a potential new partner for you will increase their anxiety and decrease the emotional bandwidth you have to support them. So stabilize your child’s life for at least a year before you even think about dating. You will probably feel panic about being alone. Deal with that panic, rather than rushing into a relationship. You will end up with a better relationship as well as a happier child.”

WHEN YOU DO BEGIN DATING, GO SLOW

“When you develop a relationship, don’t be in a hurry to introduce your new flame to your child. Your kids have already lost their family,” Markham says. “They need time to get used to the idea of a step-parent. It won’t help them to get close to a potential step-parent only to lose them.

“Not to throw cold water on the idea that you could find Mr. or Ms. Right, but rebound relationships famously don’t work out and after a divorce is when you are most vulnerable. It’s easy to act while you’re swept off your feet by new romance when you’re on the rebound, but the real problems will surface later, and it’s much harder to get out of a relationship than to get in. Have lots of discussions with your new flame about your kids. Don’t get into a relationship where you are financially dependent. Consider keeping two separate residences for a good while. And I can’t stress this enough: Pay attention to any little red flags; don’t discount them.”

A NEW PARTNER SHOULD NEVER DISCIPLINE YOUR CHILDREN

“Think of them as an aunt or uncle, not a parent. They should never be an authority figure in relation to your child,” Markham says. “There is just too much opportunity for abuse of power. I know so many situations where mothers let their new husband discipline a child, only to end up terribly regretful afterwards.”

It is wise for single parents to mindfully and slowly introduce a new partner to their children, trusting their instincts along the way. Once involved with a new partner, setting up the parenting dynamic to center upon on the authority of the biological parent helps reduce the potential for harm. Indeed, Markham urges biological parents in blended families to resist the pressure “including from a therapist” to encourage the new partner “to act like a parent.”

Markham is not alone in voicing serious concern over the power dynamic that can be abused between step/bonus parents and children. According to family psychologist Patricia Papernow, step/bonus parents should focus on nourishing a healthy relationship with their partner’s children. That is “paramount.” She emphasizes this be done through connecting, and not correcting/punishing. Papernow suggests the biological parent “should handle most of the discipline while the new parent builds a relationship” and she encourages step/bonus parents to be authoritative “or even permissive” but certainly not authoritarian in their approach.

By taking into account the insight and wisdom shared above, the disproportionate risk of sexual and physical abuse posed to children living in homes with unrelated adults might be mitigated. As divorced or single parents, we can protect our children best when we stay connected and involved in our children’s lives, positively co-parent with the other biological parent to the best of our ability, and engage in new relationships with mindfulness, patience and clear boundaries.

We can protect our children best when we remember Markham’s wise words:

“Your child is YOUR responsibility.” Given that your child “didn’t choose a divorce,” she or he needs “MORE from you as a parent [when dating or remarried], not less.”

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Amy Wright Glenn

AMY WRIGHT GLENN 
PhillyVoice Contributor

RETRIEVED https://www.phillyvoice.com/child-abuse-single-parenting-divorce-marriage-new-partners-advice/?fbclid=IwAR0glsyurB8TeDADQPqkEsFfaJGfXYpQmzTKeFpM0YAj_0-lApyva6kwFDk

RCbbc Blog eNews – prelaunch!

With the anticipation, similar to days before birth of a first child, another form of publication will soon be released. From our smaller presence in earlier days of the 5 yr Child Abuse Royal Commission (CARC), the need to ‘join the dots’ began to call out. Hopefully, with the increased-global visitors of our RCbbc Blog, we’re now able to Share another media: Newsletters! eNews are becoming a greater extension of the 247 work-cycle, allowing wider varieties of audio, visual, text & combinations of media to be exchanged. A business plan is still being developed, yet many feel that these swapping of ideas is helpful.