Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creating New Personalities

By Linda Harriss, RN, LPC

On rare occasions, people actually develop a true Multiple Personality Disorder, which is a complex, chronic form of post-traumatic dissociate psychopathology. However, anyone who has experienced abuse may selectively create personalities in [his] mind as a means of escape.

Children who use this coping device have extraordinary imaginations. When a child who has been abused encounters overpowering emotions, he may choose to escape into a safe personality, one who hasn't been abused. . . to detach himself from the memories and pain.

Many normal children play with imaginary companions; abused children can use such creative resources to a pathological extent, in extreme cases falling prey to MPD.

(Nobody Understands My Pain: Dealing with the Effects of Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Abuse by Linda Harriss, Friendswood, TX: Baxter Pres, 2004, page 121. Used by permission.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Silent Participation

A note from Cec: The following email from Heather is one of the saddest I've received. I kept asking myself how a mother could behave as she did.

I am so glad that the conspiracy of silence in many of your families is over. Ours was different. My mom kept notebooks of every time my father came into my room for sex. She would wake up each morning after and say, "I heard him in your room last night. Tell me what he did."

I told her and she told friends, but no one came forward to help me. They gave me advice about how to stop him from touching me, advice that would have gotten me killed had I implemented it. So I felt guilty for surviving the abuse and for not stopping him.

My sister and brother found out about the abuse. They too had been abused but waited until I was 15 to ask me about it. After I was placed with my sister by the courts my mother blamed me for what he did, and then would abuse me if I sought help and betrayed the secret to anyone else.

It took years before I found an understanding therapist and later a pastor to help me. But even today, 25 years later, the family doesn't want to know what happened or to deal with it. It saddens me because they won't find the freedom God gave me.

Thanks for your posts. You always find ways to touch my heart through what you share.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Impenetrable Silence

(By Tom Scales)

For me, the silence was an impenetrable wall I constructed. It had many uses. As part of my abuse I did many things that, even at the time, were horrific. I certainly didn't want anyone to know the facts. I worked hard to isolate myself from intimate or close relationships. If others knew the reality, certainly they would ostracize me.

The silence about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse spilled over into other aspects of life. If I didn't want people to find out my secret, I couldn't let them get close in other ways. Open and honest expressions of feelings and emotions were off limits. Anything that would give insight to what and who I really was, I kept under lock and key.

I never developed friends, much less close friends. The first responses I got after breaking my silence were so awful and humiliating, that I quickly clammed up again. It took me decades to have the courage to shed the shame and guilt, forgive myself, and allow God to use those horrible experiences for good in the lives of other survivors.

Tom Scales is Executive Director of Voice Today, www.voicetoday.org.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Penn State Lesson for Parents: Don't Get Star Struck (Part 2 of 2)

This is from Diane Obbema, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement.

Parents can significantly reduce the threat of a pedophile victimizing their child. Involved parenting and healthy boundaries go a long way in running interference with a child molester’s game plan. Here are simple suggestions:

Be your child’s hero. Build a relationship of trust by being involved and accessible. Ask about your child’s day and really listen. Show genuine affection. Be quick to praise and slow to criticize. Enjoy each other.

Discuss appropriate and inappropriate touches. Let him know you want to be told if he ever feels uncomfortable with someone’s behavior. Assure your child you won't blame or be angry with him for another person’s actions. Say you will listen and help no matter what the situation.

Be leery of adults who show too much interest in your child. Don’t be star struck! A title doesn’t vouch for character. Healthy adults spend time with other adults--not alone with children. Keep to group activities with multiple adults supervising.

You don’t have to parent in fear. Just parent wisely.

Diane Obbema is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. She resides in Colorado. Contact her at: dobbema@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Penn State Lesson for Parents: Don’t Get Star Struck (Part 1 of 2)

This is from Diane Obbema, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement.

Reading the grand jury findings in the Penn State child abuse scandal made me think of a conversation I had years ago with “Hank," an intelligent, accomplished man, who did volunteer work. Hank was considered an upstanding man in the community.

Hank was also a pedophile.

I was a detective, specializing in child sex abuse cases, when a mother reported to our agency that Hank had placed his hand on her son’s thigh. It happened while Hank drove the boy home from a sporting event. It made the boy very uncomfortable.

The mom did not know Hank was a convicted child molester. Neither did the organizations where Hank volunteered. Long before sex registries existed, Hank had done his crime and done his time.

Hank openly acknowledged to me his prior conviction. Yes, he had molested two boys. “I’m a pedophile,” he said. But Hank maintained he learned a lot “back then” through sex-offender therapy. He assured me, he knew how to deal with his “urges.”

When I brought up the current boy Hank was “befriending,” Hank admitted he felt that old temptation when he placed his hand on the boy’s thigh. He resisted going further, which kept it non-criminal. "It was just a lapse of judgment.” In typical denial fashion, Hank stressed the purity of his motives in helping youth, and minimized the effect of his actions on this young boy.

Hank willingly answered my questions about how he thought back then. He shared how he selected his victims, won over the victims’ families, made his first sexual overtures, and dealt with victim resistance. All those things eerily mirrored the behavior documented in the grand jury’s report regarding former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky.

Although Hank is a convicted child molester, Jerry is not. But the parallels between these men are worth highlighting as a warning to parents about the behaviors of pedophiles.

Pedophiles seek to be near children. Being a coach, teacher, religious leader, daycare worker, or volunteer increases the opportunity to select accessible victims. It also offers a cover of respectability.

Pedophiles endear themselves to their victims and victims’ parent by meeting a need. Offers of helping a stressed-out parent, providing a father figure, or treating a less-advantaged kid to gifts and events they could never otherwise have, all serve to gain parents’ trust and enable the molester to have alone-time with a child.

Pedophiles usually keep with a pattern that has proven successful for them in the past. They first test the water to see a child’s response to an invasive touch or situation. For some, it could be a hand on the thigh, groping during wrestling, sitting on one’s lap, or having back rubs. Should the child react negatively, or if someone inquires about it later, they explain them as a misunderstanding or honest mistake

Children exposed to such touches usually feel uncomfortable. They recognize it as a departure from the norm, or a violation of a private area. Confusion sets in because the child cares about the person who is making them uncomfortable.

Most children lack the confidence to challenge an adult. They are more likely to accept the perpetrator’s explanation for the touch and choose to discount their own internal warning signals.

Pedophiles bank on the child’s vulnerability to manipulation. As the sexual touching increases, a child feels deeper shame, often blaming himself. Often the child is told that no one will believe him if he tells and senses there is no way out.

Fear of rejection, or retaliation from the perpetrator, forces the child’s continued silence and insures a continual compliance. It’s no wonder that child victims delay disclosures of sexual abuse, sometimes for years.

Diane Obbema is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. She resides in Colorado. Contact her at: dobbema@gmail.com.

Friday, November 11, 2011


His name is Mike and he sent me his story (which I've condensed).

The deacon, who was also my Sunday school teacher, started visiting me to help me understand the Bible. My folks liked him because he was friendly, and so did I. At first. But that changed.

He molested me and kept doing it every week or so for about two years.

You know what he told me? He said I was a terrible sinner and I was heading straight to hell, but he was there to help me get rid of evil thoughts and to be pure. It sounds crazy now, but I did what he told me and that was supposed to make me into a good kid.

"He was the sinner!" I told my wife just four weeks ago.

She said, "Of course he was." She seemed surprised that I hadn't figured it out.

I thought I was the one who had failed God and been evil. For more than twenty years I hated myself because I believed his terrible lies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Giant Step

The brief email read: When we finally face the abuse and disclose the secret to others, we've made a giant step toward healing.

He wrote only one sentence, but it's true. Here's how I think about it. I need to tell someone else who listens, who believes me, and who also understands.

Here's something I started to say years ago (and still believe): "I know of myself only what I say about myself." That is, when I speak the words about myself and get an understanding nod from someone else, I "own" my words.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Conspiracy of Silence

Since the publication of my book When a Man You Love Was Abused, I've done more than 30 interviews on radio and six times TV on the topic. (One radio program canceled because the subject was "inappropriate" for their audience.)

A question that has come up several times goes something like this: What do you mean by a conspiracy of silence?

It's not an original term, but it fits. Conspiracy of silence means that those whom we would normally expect to support and encourage us erect a wall between us (or perhaps we do it ourselves). Sometimes we who were victimized try to break through and we're rebuffed by being ignored or they don't believe us.

For me to break the silence in my own family of origin was difficult. To my surprise when I did, two of my three widowed sisters immediately affirmed me. The first had been abused by the same pedophile. The other said she hadn't known but suspected. "We didn't know what to do about those things back then," she said. And I think she spoke the truth.

A few months ago. the third sister read my book on sexual abuse and we spoke on the phone. She remembered a few details that I had forgotten. I felt such a glow from talking to her. At last, I thought, the silence has been driven away. I'm freer now than ever.

I'm the father of three grown children. I hadn't spoken to them about my abuse before I wrote my book. (I'm not sure why.) I gave each one a copy and said, "I want you to read this."

Since then, all three read the book and they've talked openly with me. They know and they love me. That's what counts.

The important people in my life know about my abuse. The conspiracy is more than silenced: It's dead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shattering the Silence

"I like the title of your blog—shattering the silence. I wish I had done that earlier." His name is Matt Phillips and he attended a prestigious boarding school for boys. Mark's dorm monitor, two years his senior, befriended the boy. Mark went into detail about the things that happened before the sexual abuse began.

Matt wondered if he was the only boy abused by the dorm monitor. "I didn't ask because I was afraid that if I was the only one, I'd be mocked and picked on by my peers."

Just before his last year in boarding school, two years after the abuser had graduated, Matt told his parents. They were shocked, but they believed him. "I didn't know how much Mom and Dad loved me until then," he said.

Matt shattered the silence, and it was a brave thing to do. I want more men to take such courageous action.