Saturday, December 20, 2008

When You Get There

When you get there, it will not look like healing. There, where exactly is that? There, where are we going? There, she says, as if it exists on a map. THIS WAY TO INCEST HEALING. RAPE GOES AWAY THIS EXIT.
 There, there, as in, to the place of new Earth. You have never been here before, away from the evil of your so called elders, unenmeshed from the black-widow-spun-incest-web. This is healing. It is barren at first. You will look out over the land and think to yourself, why am I here, where there is nothing?  It hurts. It is scary. You will feel alone. Maybe you will feel nothing as you approach the precipice. You will jump, free falling. You must jump, girl. Jump into that nothingness you see, feel, and hear. 

Nothing. Upon landing, you will turn around and see the demons retreat. You will be free. Lonely, yes, aching, yes, but free. Yes, free of lies, of intergenerational poison. Free of Daddy, with his raping heart, Mother who took flight, others who deemed you unseen, unheard.  But this is not nothing, this unexplored place. There is YOU. You are never nothing. 
But when you get there, it can feel and look like nothing, you may want to run into the past, cling back to the old tree vines, rotten and slick as they are, for fear of this seemingly barren nothingness. 
But, if you listen deep and hard and still, you will hear it, you will feel it; 
You are a human seed. You are life springing anew. You are the reason. At first this uncharted territory is blindingly lonely, you look for Proust’s new eyes to guide you, Maya’s strength to rise, Alice’s purple fields to speak to you. Where is everything? You are the first, woman. You are the roots, the branches, the trunk, the rings within the body, the sap, the bark armor. 
At first, it looks like fucking Chernobyl, so vastly damaged. Can this even be healed? You will hear that interminable echo over and over. Or is incest, is rape like radiation, a permanent nuclear holocaust of the human soul? 
But your eyes become newer all the time, your strength rises toward the sun daily, and in the long, slow future, purple blossoms.  Life herself is what you are. 
Grow your new tree. Your soil is beautiful, your seedlings whole, babies bursting into Earth like light through a prism, all miraculous color and light and reflective. You are a pioneer, Woman, you have led yourself through a quaking terror so sharp and piercing most would have given up, given in, gone along, saying,” There is no other pill to take, so I swallow the one that made me ill.” But not YOU, for you are life herself.  YOU are never nothing.  The trees know this, as do your children and spirits yet to be your children. The light kissed dawn knows this, you are surely something, surely within you a teeming garden awaits germination, the robust, fully grown oak tree within the acorn. THERE, that’s where ‘there’ it is. There lives in YOU. That child inside of you, the one you were, sacred and innocent, curious and free, THERE is the place you are going. And You will know the wonder of it all, when you get there. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Casey Anthony

Adam Walsh’s murder had finally been solved, and it  got me thinking as I often do, Why do people murder children? Why would someone kidnap and decapitate a six year old boy like Adam Walsh? The murder of Caylee Anthony has triggered me tremendously. I have always felt I could have easily been this child. 
Something I did not know until today: A friend of Casey Anthony told investigators to look in the wooded area where the remains of a young child were found last week, according to Orlando station WFTV.

Kiomarie Cruz told deputies five months ago that the area near Hidden Oaks Elementary School was a favorite childhood hideaway for Casey.  Cruz said she and Casey would  "pretty much used to hang out there most of our time," and would go there to "get away from our parents."

At the time of the tip, search teams weren't able to comb the area because it was underwater.

Last Thursday, a utility worker who went into the wooded area to relieve himself came across a plastic bag.  It contained the skull of a small child with duct tape attached.  Investigators say there is strong evidence the remains are those of 
Caylee Anthony.  

Attorneys for the mother accused of killing Caylee Anthony will not have access to a site where investigators believe they have found the missing toddler's remains, a judge ruled Tuesday. Anthony, 22, faces charges including first-degree murder in the June disappearance of her daughter Caylee, who was 2 at the time. Remains described as being those of a small child were found last week a half-mile from Casey Anthony's parents' home. 
Waiting 31 days to report Caylee Anthony missing, this woman has lied and lied some more. I can see the coldness in her, I can feel it in her. I want to know what happened to this woman that she would do this. I think we MUST know, so that we can try to prevent this kind of monstorous thing from happening again. I just hope we will find out the truth behind these family dynamics. If she has completely repressed it, we may never know but through her actions that something terrible has happened to her for her to be able to kill her own child. I do not believe sociopaths are born but made. 
On the surface, I see an almost Susan Smith like selfishness, she wanted to be free of the responsibility of Caylee. But as with Susan, why KILL the child/children? Where is that rage coming from? Is it rage only, what else is driving that cruelty? To a mental health professional, she fits the description of someone with an antisocial personality disorder - just a fancy name for "sociopath.". The disorder is recognizable by a lack of concern for others, as evidenced by her behavior after Caylee disappeared. She did not call 911 to report her daughter missing; that task was left to her mother, weeks after Caylee disappeared. While her daughter was missing, Casey was out ”clubbing”, buying lingerie and other sundry items for herself from Target, and cooking dinner for her boyfriend and his roommates.

Read the official Discovery Documents to educate yourself on all of the details relating to the Casey Anthony case. 

Henry Lee has just been announced as one of the forensic experts who will be providing evidence for the Casey Anthony trial scheduled for January.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holidays Past, Present, and Future: From Turbulence to Calm

I am feeling like saying say hello for the Holidays. Hello!!
The Holidays this year are pretty darn Merry in my home. This year feels as if a corner has been turned. I have had moments of deep calm and clarity. Partly I believe due to the fact that I have been exercising regularly for quite some time, and getting enough sleep, sex, and food. I have been getting way too much caffeine, but some things never change! I definitely feel energized for the holidays. I've been listening to The Reindeer Room remixed Christmas songs, it's a great compilation of songs set to groovy trip hop beats. I love it! That is part of my new family tree tradition. I have been concentrating on my new family tree as of late, we are the roots, the seeds even. I even bought an actual tree, a "Glitter tree", from Trader Joe's that will grow to 10 feet. We tore all the old stuff out. It's gone, ashes, ciao. I feel like a pioneer. I was having a conversation with a special person in my life the other day, and we were discussing past lives, whether they exist or not, and I said, for me, I do not feel like I have been here before. She said to me, "Maybe this is your first." That really resonated within me in a concrete way. That is just how it feels to me. I must be very careful too with my legacy, with what I pass to my kids having no blueprint to go by.
It's not that sexual abuse and my father are my only story, it's that that experience is one of many .
It's not about living in the past, but allowing the past to live in you and honoring it and healing from it and knowing when to allow it to go, piece by piece. It's not about spinning in circles but traveling the healing spiral and spiraling up rather than down. It's about being as hypersensitive to our goodness as we are our faults and perceived flaws. It is about realizing that this is your world now, not his/your abusers. It is about realizing you just may have to start over, and that you are a pioneer emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is about blazing a warpath toward helping speak the truth about your life, which gives others in your life the permission to do the same. It is about learning when you are being treated well, and when it is time to let go of that friend or relationship you do not want to admit is killing you because you need to fix people. (I've tried that, and sure enough, my parents can not be fixed by proxy nor can my childhood.) Especially for the holidays, it is about breaking with old patterns and traditions and being a student of your new life. This means learning how YOU want to celebrate, reading about what others do and brainstorming for nouveau ways to live from. 
Paths to New Traditions: Create a collage that envisions your new values and rituals for the Holidays. 
New kinds of music. Research ITunes. Google "Nontraditional" holiday music, or whatever you are interested in. If you never had anything traditional and want that as a new way of celebrating, do that. 
I absolutely love remixed Holiday music, Christmas blues, anything that is groovy, loungey, jazzy,  and unique. Get yourself ornaments that are in alignment with your creative side. Use this opportunity to open up your creative channel. Christmas/Holidays are a goldmine for creativity!
The Holidays for me are exciting not only because it is a collective celebration, and a time when things are magical and full of wonder, but also because it is the beginning of new beginnings. After the Holidays we get to look forward to a brand new year! 

Yes, it is hard, painful, and challenging. It is not as hard or painful or costly as giving up or giving in and going along with the old family energy. That is just not an option for me, and so I go forward. Since beginning this and specifically implementing new Holiday traditions with my family, it gets so much easier as the rituals you create become unique to YOU and YOUR family. It is empowering. I feel completely empowered. Of course, I still tear up at times when thinking of my father and how it is not even safe to love a man who could rape you. This is normal. Yet, I can feel those moments and still feel EMPOWERED by what I have created now. And that is one of these basic human rights we had taken from us, the right to be empowered. I want to remind you, especially if you are struggling right now, it is YOUR life now. YOU have the power to change the trajectory your life travels. Allow the soft, the beautiful, the mundane, the sparkling moments, the peace that is your birthright, allow the light and allow the dark too. I think we live in parallels as survivors, ( I know I do)we step into the now, what is happening today, but we know the pain is till next to us, and that is okay too.
 In Maya's wise words:
When we come to it 
We must confess that we are the possible... 
We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world 
Free to choose our ends, and our new beginnings 
That is when, and only when... 
We come to it.
Maya Angelou

Merry Happy Everything to ALL! 
Love and Light, Sarah

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Parent With Presence

Parent With Presence:
Essential For Your Child
We all want our children to be successful in school. At least, I hope we all do! In all seriousness, children need to know that they are loved, safe, and sacred to us. There are many ways to demonstrate this to them. Words are one thing, but action is key. One simple way I want to discuss is volunteering your time in your child’s classroom.
Children spend their days at school, and we at home or at work. When we let them go into the world, we have to be absolutely committed to remaining a PRESCENCE in their lives even as we are physically apart.
When a parent makes the effort to come to school, and volunteer, even for half and hour in the classroom, you are giving your child the gift of your presence, by way of your time spent in his or her world. My son lights up like a Christmas tree when I come on in to help out. He says,” I feel so…special, Mama. Just…. like, I can see you are always caring about me.“ His father comes in regularly as well to help out. Fathers need to get in there as well.
That’s the truth, kids see that you are there with them, aiding the teacher, acquainting yourself with the staff, the other children, and their lives as they know it at school.
Many of us did not have present parents in any sense of the word. I come from an abusive family. I can vividly remember never having a parent come to school for anything. When I was in a school play in the second grade, I was so excited I could barely stand it. I was a doll, and my job was to sit on the stage for the whole play! I got to wear a special dress and special doll make up. When no one showed up, I felt such a deep sadness, and sense of invisibility. This is a mild example, but a poignant one nonetheless. I vowed years later that my children would never feel such feelings; stinging rejection and the humiliation of being stared at when your name is called and no parent stands up for you in the crowd. I know many of you have had similar experiences. If this is your legacy, it can stop with you.
A good compass for parenting with presence is getting as involved in your child’s classroom as much as you can. I understand parents work. As a stay at home mother, it has been a challenge for me at times to find child care for my youngest so that I can get to school. I have seen parents who come in once every two weeks on a lunch shift. I have yet another amazing friend who is in the classroom once or twice a week. For both of her children! Children talk about it all week and are overjoyed when their mom or dad comes in. What a gift! One that we can give just by showing up. Isn’t that true for so much of life? Just show up. Showing up emotionally, not just physically. Here are some simple and easy tips for fostering presence in your child’s life:
Make friends with the teacher, every year. Whether you talk on the phone, by email, or in person. Just talk. It’s all about communication. Some teachers are better at this than others. If you have a teacher who is not so hot in this area, voice your concerns calmly. If you are blessed with a teacher who is on the ball, be sure you thank her or him often.
With my son, who is a second grader, I am co-room parent. I was sole room mother in kindergarten and chaperoned every field trip. This year I talk three or four days a week with my son’s teacher. If you wait until conference or progress report time, you may end up having a much bigger mess to clean up. Kids can fall behind in a flash. It’s all about being a maintainer, a sort of diligence cop. If your child is behind, it falls on you as much as your child, because it is our job as parents to set rules and boundaries and enforce them, they need us to be on their backs all the time. Resist as they might, that is to be expected and is even more reason to get in there and stay in the process with them.
Join the PTA, try to go to meetings. Your PTA needs you. You need the PTA. It’s a win-win.
Go to as many school events as possible. We go to almost every one. This gives my son an extra dose of belonging in his school community.
Offer to bring in extra supplies for the class. Yes, they always need supplies. It could be Kleenex or disinfectant. Small or large, it will be appreciated.
Have an ongoing conversation with your child’s teacher about how your child is doing. Read the lesson plans if you can. Ask for handouts on exactly what they are learning. For example, for reading levels, most schools have certain levels your child needs to be at in order to be making adequate progress. Your library should have corresponding handouts with age appropriate books that aid in your child reading on the correct level. If they do not have this, ask them to provide them.
Stress the importance of education, in general. Education is the key to the future. My son knows it is fundamental right and also a responsibility he must take very seriously.
Let me preempt, you think you do not have the time? Prioritize. Make the time. Don’t talk about it, be about it. The laundry can wait. Start early, kindergarten, even preschool if your child is in one.
As a mother who makes an effort to be a present force in my child’s life at school, as well as home, I pop into class early. I help organize, along with the my co-room mother, Learning Experiences, Center Time, Book Fair, and the volunteer list. It’s sort of like being a detective. It’s a fun way to be in the know. I can see Dominic’s self esteem and sense of self value rise each and every time I reach into his life at school by being there. Yes, sometimes I am simply stapling their journals together for the week. I sit and staple and watch and listen. Every few minutes Dominic will look up and smile at me. The other kids do too, and I feel so blessed to be a source of presence for them. Other times I am working with groups, and at times I am assigned to some one on one time with a particular child. I have made an effort to know each child in his class beyond their names. Dominic loves this. In this way, you get to be a sort of Earth Mother to all of your child’s friends. The hugs and hi-fives I receive from his classmates when I come in makes my day!
On the research side, in study after study, researchers discover how important it is for parents to be actively involved in their child's education. Here are some of the findings of major research into parental involvement:
When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school — and the schools they go to are better.
The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from preschool through high school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background.
Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science. Reading aloud to children is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success. Talking to children about books and stories read to them also supports reading achievement.
When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically.
Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child's time, helping with homework and discussing school matters.
The earlier that parent involvement begins in a child's educational process, the more powerful the effects.
Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling.
Involvement in your child's education can mean:
Reading to your child
Checking homework every night
Discussing your children's progress with teachers
Voting in school board elections
Helping your school to set challenging academic standards
Limiting TV viewing on school nights
Becoming an advocate for better education in your community and state.
We are witness to our children‘s lives. We need to band together as parents and be a strong, stable, encouraging presence in their school life. For me, it is really about being there in mind and body. This is parenting with presence.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Stretching has a plethora of benefits, such as increasing flexibility, stretching is good for your joints, promotes better posture, relieves stress, and can prevent injury. Of the many things we do throughout the day, attempting any task with supple muscles is best. Regular stretching as a daily practice lengthens muscles. Increasing circulation is another wonderful benefit. No matter what your age, you can stretch. Think of stretching as a way to be kind to your muscles for all they do for you. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of stretching before and after a vigorous workout, there is a spiritual side to stretching that can not be ignored. Stretching centers us. We feel a higher sense of well being afterwards. Whether through yoga, or our own particular way of stretching, we can open ourselves us to a soothing brought about by the increased circulation stretching brings. Poor circulation can result in lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and pelvic muscles helps lengthen muscles to remove stress from your spine that causes muscle tension and lower back pain. Research also shows that doing prolonged stretching exercises, like yoga, will help reduce the cholesterol in the body. This of course must be done with a healthy diet at hand. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of the arteries, allowing you to avoid coronary diseases.
Chronically tense and tight muscles contribute to poor posture, which in turn can affect the functioning of our internal organs. This tension throughout our bodies is usually stress related There have been reports of great improvement and sometimes complete healing from arthritis, multiple sclerosis, headaches, back/neck/shoulder pain, bursitis, depression, fatigue and even conditions like fibromyalgia.
Stretching guidelines include: Stretch the muscle to the point of its greatest range of motion, but do not overextend. You should feel very minimal tightness/discomfort (but not pain). Hold and control the stretch for at least 30 seconds (and maximum 60 seconds). Stretch all the major leg muscle groups (e.g., calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, hip flexors). Stretch uniformly (after stretching one leg, stretch the other). Don't overstretch an injured area as this may cause additional damage.
Move your body, Ready, Set, Stretch!

Welcoming Autumn

The seasons shift and stretch, fall coming on the trail of summer. I stand outside, breathing in the scent of falling leaves. I open my windows and allow my home to inhale the sensual essence of autumn. I want to celebrate autumn by beautifying my home. There are many ways to infuse one's home with the beauty and earthiness of fall. Here are a few suggestions: Just yesterday, I noticed a trio of leaves, each at a different stage of turning colors. I brought them in and displayed them in a leaf bouquet in a small jar. Gathering pine cones, oranges, lemons, nuts, and pieces of evergreen and arranging them in an oversized apothecary jar is a lovely way to bring the autumnal into your home. Huckleberry, Southern magnolia, African boxwood, coastal redwood, Japanese euonymus cultivars, various species of acacia and various species of eucalyptus are some examples of species that provide ornamental foliage. Create a wreath from twigs, leaves, and branches. Tuck in pressed leaves and viola!
If you like the colors of autumn, why not bring out special tablecloths, napkins, decorative pillows, linens, and dcor that is expressive of that which you like. I prefer abstract paintings of leaves. The reds, oranges, and yellows are beautiful. A wall tapestry is another way to imbue your home with the spirit of autumn.
Create a centerpiece for your family table with gourds or pumpkins. Burn candles with the scents of fall, some have real leaves that glow when lit creating a gorgeous ambiance. . Hang a windsock or wind chime with a fall theme. Buy a few potted mums to line your windows. Try creating a rustic scarecrow., or make a pumpkin snowman if you dare. Stack 3 pumpkins atop one another, drill holes through the pumpkins and insert a large stick to secure. Add stick arms and decorate away! Wheat bundles make a rustic and elegant decoration. Gather a few and place them in a vase. I personally love my autumn tree angel. She oversees all of this autumn infusion. Cooking dishes such as squash is a wonderful way to fill your kitchen with the feeling of fall. For a more playful approach, use autumn themed cookie cutters for pancakes. You do not have to be a decorating diva in order to create a welcoming autumn feel in your home. With just a little effort and your natural creativity, you can bring the season of autumn inside your home, and your heart.
Learn more about this author, Sarah Elise Stauffer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Help Pass Senate Bill 1738—The PROTECT Our Children Act

Help Pass Senate Bill 1738—The PROTECT Our Children Act Hundreds of thousands of children are victims of sexual abuse each year. Due to the sheer lack of resources, law enforcement is unable to follow up on the majority of leads they have.
The PROTECT Our Children Act will:
Authorize over $320 million over the next five years in desperately needed funding for law enforcement to investigate child exploitation. Mandate that child rescue be a top priority for law enforcement receiving federal funding. Allocate funds for high-tech computer software that can track down Internet predators. Act Now!Your U.S. senators will be voting on the bill soon, so it is crucial you contact them immediately.Go to to find contact information for the senators in your state. Search for your senator by name or state by clicking on the arrow from either dropdown menu. Contact information is provided here. To send an e-mail, click on "Web Form" below his or her name, and e-mail your letter to make a difference!
Call Your SenatorsIf you choose to contact your senators by phone, be sure to tell them, "Vote yes on Senate Bill 1738—The PROTECT Our Children Act."
Write to Your SenatorsIf you choose to write a letter, fax, telegram or e-mail, you may use the following sample letter—and modify it how you see fit.
Dear Senator:
I know that you believe, like I do, that we must do everything possible to protect children from sexual predators. That is why I am asking for your help.
Last year alone, U.S. law enforcement identified over 300,000 criminals who were trafficking in movies and pictures of young children being raped and tortured. Experts say that one in every three of these criminals has local child victims. Child pornography trafficking over the Internet has given us a trail of evidence that leads straight to their doorsteps, but the vast majority of these children will never be rescued because investigators are overwhelmed, outnumbered and underfunded.
As your constituent, I urge you to do everything in your power to pass the PROTECT Our Children Act (S. 1738, Biden-Hatch). This bipartisan legislation passed the House 415-2, but it is now the victim of petty partisan politics.
Now that we know where these children are and how to protect them, there is no excuse for the Senate to fail to take action this session.
(Your name here)
Instructions for How to Copy and Paste the LetterTo copy and paste the letter into your senator's web form at, point your mouse arrow at the beginning of the text that you want to copy. Click your left mouse button and hold it down. While holding the left mouse button, drag your arrow to the end of the text that you want to copy. Release the button. The text should be highlighted. Place your mouse arrow over the highlighted text, click your right mouse button once and let go. A new menu should appear. Select Copy from the drop down menu. When you get to the message form field for your senator at, point your arrow at the beginning of the message field that you want to copy your text to and right click with your mouse. Click Paste from this menu. Submit your form and help our children!

Oprah Today

Dear Supporter:
We just got back from taping The Oprah Show in Chicago and wanted to make sure you, as part of the PROTECT family, tune in this Monday to watch Oprah spread our pro-child, anti-crime message to her more than 40 million viewers. We wanted to share some behind the scenes details with you here in advance.Special Agent Flint Waters demonstrated his computer software that tracks Internet predators and pornographers, leading investigators straight to these criminals' doors-and potentially leading to child rescue. PROTECT's Legislative Affairs Director, Camille Cooper, discussed our Federal bill that will award law enforcement the funding necessary to put this groundbreaking and life-saving new program in play. Ms. Cooper told Oprah and her audience of millions how hard PROTECT's members and supporters have worked on this bill for the past two years. Oprah will be calling upon her vast audience on Monday to demand the Senate passes this legislation.This has been such a long hard battle for many of us, but victory is in sight. In fact, within mere hours following the taping on Thursday, word reached Capitol Hill of Oprah's new role in our campaign, leading a to FOX News headline: "Hurricane Oprah Heading Towards Washington."And now, let's win this final round. Please click here to tell your Senators to stop playing politics and pass the PROTECT Our Children Act. --THE STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS AT PROTECT

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grooming Children for Sexual Molestation

Grooming Children for Sexual Molestation
By Gregory M. Weber
You're a thief—a con artist. You recently met an elderly widow with a good-sized bank account fueled by pension and dividend checks. In sharp contrast, your own financial engine is running on fumes. You decide to take her money.
So you befriend the lady. You run small errands for her. You buy her gifts. You listen to her stories and you comfort her when she feels lonely. You put your arm around her and tell her you understand her problems. You spend time with her each day. You tell her she's special. You gain her trust. Her natural suspicion disappears.
Only then does the conversation shift to money. You tell her about a tremendous investment opportunity. You offer her a chance to share in this special event. If she's curious, you play on that curiosity. You answer her questions and downplay her fears.
And your work pays off. She trusts you. She signs the check.
Three minutes after her bank opens, you're in the wind, cash in hand and ready to target your next victim.
But what if you're a child molester—a predator? What if the object of your desire isn't the widow's bank account, but her six-year-old grandson? What steps will you take to get what you want?
Not much will change. A predator will identify and engage his victim. He'll gain the child's trust, break down his defenses, and manipulate him into performing or permitting the desired sex act. If necessary, the predator will gain access to the child by employing the same techniques with the child's parent or adult caretaker.
The process is called grooming. It increases the predator's access to his victim and decreases the likelihood of discovery.
Anna C. Salter is a respected psychologist. She is an expert in the field of child sexual maltreatment, and she spells it out:
"The establishment (and eventual betrayal) of affection and trust occupies a central role in the child molester's interactions with children....The grooming process often seems similar from offender to offender, largely because it takes little to discover that emotional seduction is the most effective way to manipulate children."
These men are convicted child molesters. They, too, are experts in the field of child maltreatment, and they also spell it out:
"[P]arents are so naive—they're worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother-in-law. They just don't realize how devious we can be. I used to abuse children in the same room with their parents and they couldn't see it or didn't seem to know it was happening."
"I was disabled and spent months grooming the parents, so they would tell their children to take me out and help me. No one thought that disabled people could be abusers."
"[P]arents are partly to blame if they don't tell their children about [sexual matters]—I used it to my advantage by teaching the child myself."
"[P]arents shouldn't be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it's harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you're up to."
Here's what the predators are up to.
Grooming is a process. It begins when the predator chooses a target area. He may visit places where children are likely to go: schools, shopping malls, playgrounds, parks, and the like. He may work or volunteer at businesses that cater to children. Other predators strike up relationships with adults who have children in the home—single parent families make particularly good targets.
Victim selection and recruitment are next. There is no prototypical victim of child sexual abuse. Any child may be victimized. Not surprisingly, predators often target children with obvious vulnerabilities. A child who feels unloved and unpopular will soak up adult attention like a sponge. Children with family problems, who spend time alone and unsupervised, who lack confidence and self-esteem, and who are isolated from their peers are all likely targets.
Predators engage or "recruit" their victims in different ways. Many use a combination of forced teaming and charm. They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy treats and gifts as tokens of friendship. They may offer drugs or alcohol to older children or teenagers. And they almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear. Your parents don't understand or respect you? I do. Other kids make fun of you? I know what that's like—it was the same way for me when I was your age. They don't trust you at home? Boy, I know what that's like—your parents never really want you to grow up. But I trust you. I respect you. I care for you more than anybody else. And I love you. I'm here for you.
Successful predators find and fill voids in a child's life.
A predator will usually introduce secrecy at some point during the grooming process. Initially, secrecy binds the victim to the predator: "Here's some candy. But don't tell your friends because they'll be jealous, and don't tell your mother because she won't like you eating between meals." Later on, secrecy joins hands with threats: "If you tell your mother what happened, she'll hate you. It'll kill her. Or I'll kill her. Or I'll kill you."
The forging of an emotional bond through grooming leads to physical contact. Predators use the grooming process to break down a child's defenses and increase the child's acceptance of touch. The first physical contact between predator and victim is often nonsexual touching designed to identify limits: an "accidental" touch, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Nonsexual touching desensitizes the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching—the predator's ultimate goal.
The best way to recognize grooming behavior is to pay attention to your child and the people in your child's life. Gavin de Becker sensibly reminds us that "[c]hildren require the protection of adults, usually from adults. Their fear of people is not yet developed, their intuition not yet loaded with enough information and experience to keep them from harm." There are many demands placed upon our time, but nothing—nothing—is more important than the welfare of our children. When we blindly surrender responsibility for them to others without question, we invite trouble. Parents should know their child's teachers, coaches, day care providers, youth group leaders, and other significant adults in their lives. Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Stay involved.
And please—talk to your children. Teach them to recognize grooming behavior. Teach them to be wary of any physical contact initiated by an adult. And teach them to trust you with their problems and their pain. The safest child is the child who knows he can bring his problems and concerns to parents and adult caregivers without reproach or retaliation.
Gregory M. Weber is an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin. He specializes in the prosecution of crimes committed against children. He may be reached at P.O. Box 7857, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7857, or by e-mail at

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Beauty Tree

When my first son was born, I began to flood with poetry. I think it is very healing for survivors.

Beauty Tree

The window holds the setting sun,

Orange marmalade burning through cold sky.

I watch my son cradled to sleep,

Vanilla face blooming into slumber.

Father's arms holding him tight as an orchid bud.

Ra bestows his ancient illumination upon

Our little prince, tiny sage, master shaman.

Sarah Elise Stauffer, 2004

What Barack Obama Means For the Fatherless

What Barack Obama Means to the Fatherless
By: Sarah Elise Stauffer (View Profile)
A good survivor friend of mine and I were waxing on this and he asked me to write a little about it, so my dear lovely here you go. (You are a wonderful man and father! Remember that!)
We took our kids to see Obama at a rally a couple of weeks ago. It was electric, amazing, and very powerful to do with our kids. We believe in teaching them to honor that they have a voice, to use that voice and affect change, to be opinionated, and not to be sheep.
“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you ought to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.”—Robert Louis Stevenson
Obama is sincere and eloquent, brilliant beyond an Ivy League level—he is emotionally intelligent. He is socially intelligent. And he alleviates my need for cynicism. I was raised by cynics. I threw that veil of shame—and many others—off years ago. I refuse to pass that to my kids. That will not be their legacy. Or mine. But I understand it and empathize with those feeling it. It is easier in some ways to remain cynical. It is safer than putting yourself out there, we think, because then we risk disappointment. Sometimes it means going against your own inherited family rules (It did in my case.), spoken or unspoken. My children have made me believe in life; they kind of pulled the rug out from under my very cynical nature. My hubby is the same—he went against his upbringing to become extremely positive, politically outspoken, and idealistic. Kids, they do the damndest things.
This country could use some hope. It’s as if some people are allergic to it. I understand. One thing he said that resonated deeply with me and especially with my survivor friends was that “Fathers in this country owe more to their kids—they need to stand up and be men and be a real father to their children.” He is using his personal pain as a fatherless child to affect social change. So important. I do not care if you are Republican, Independent, Libertarian, liberal, purple people eater, whattheheckever—this is a common universal need. Touting family values is one thing; valuing family another. Fathers need to be there for their offspring. Period. That your father was absent, abusive, nonexistent, or otherwise emotionally/physically not there must be faced. And felt.

This is of interest to all of us who either had abusive fathers, or nonabusive fathers. Every father needs to be more emotionally in tune and available to their kids. Fathers need to protect and provide, but they need to exhibit empathy and reverence toward and for their children. So many children, girls and boys, are growing up feeling a vague, uneasy sense of disconnectedness. They are acting out (criminal behavior, hurting others, etc.) or acting in (self destructive, my hubby and I both did this for years as teens) because of this: Just because you are a “father” and you bring home the proverbial bacon does not mean you are done.
My husband is a fabulous example because he shows the boys it’s good and right to feel, how to conduct oneself as a man, to empathize with another’s struggle, to express their dreams and hopes, to be kind and sensitive to women, children, other men, humans all over, to think about animals, to honor the life force itself. In this rigidly patriarchal society, we have lost the sacrament of the sensitive male. Fathers showing their feelings, imagine that. Golly gee. To their sons, to their daughters. What a novel idea. It touches my life so much that Obama is verbalizing this reality; fathers are not fathers just because they provide. That’s a provider. Fathers are not fathers just because they made a baby; that’s a sperm donor. A child knows when a parent is giving them their energy—it’s an energy, a connection, a soul feeling. They know it. It is a soul nourishment.
To all my survivor friends, I know this means something deeply profound to you as well. To anyone who has not directly experienced father issues, I know you can be proud of this as well. Obama is challenging the status quo by saying this. He is calling out those fathers who are emotionally lazy and do not want to own up to their own feelings about fatherhood. Kids are growing up feeling fundamentally flawed inside because of their parents’ issues, issues that they project all over the child, who then absorbs the crap as their own.

To me, that’s what Obama is about. Now, I am a proud Democrat, a very liberal one, although I do believe in the death penalty for child killers and rapists, but I say this as a woman, mother, wife, and daughter of two very inadequate, abandoning, abusive parents. I don’t care that Obama is more moderate than I might like—I don’t think he’ll be legalizing pot or confronting the failed drug war, putting nonviolent drug offenders in rehab instead of prison, for instance. Nor has any candidate gotten up there and said, “I plan to eradicate incest, because 1/3 girls and 1/5 boys are sexually abused in this country.” I’m still waiting on that.
BUT, that he is voicing this call for fathers to step up is why—among a zillion other reasons—Health care: we were personally affected by no health insurance when our first son was born. It was awful and everyone should enjoy a wonderful socialized health care system—it’s working beautifully for Australia, Europe, even Cuba); pro choice rights (it’s a decision that belongs to a woman; it is her body and that is that.); actually addressing sources of unwanted pregnancy and aiming to prevent it (fathers in the home loving their daughters would help this, too); sex education is the only realistic way to do this. Less warmongering, more diplomacy, ANY diplomacy at this point, more gun control (I don’t want kids getting their hands on guns; our country is number one for gun related death), just more control. You NRA folks just chill; for me, we need to screen people and keep guns out of the hands of kids like Dylan Klebold and prevent more Columbines). Shall I go on? I will proudly vote for him. Anyone who cannot find a reason to do the same I ask you to think about this, just this, the subject of fathers. It’s something I think we can all agree on.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Poetry To Inspire

I am posting and sharing some poetry. Poetry is powerful for many reasons, but I think certain poems can reawaken lost parts of selves, lost layers of trueness, lost essentialness...dormant, but overshadowed by pain and layers of shame and uncried tears.

I'll start with Rumi.

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
they're in each other all along.
Translator: Coleman Barks


Suddenly the drunken sweetheart appeared out of my door.
She drank a cup of ruby wine and sat by my side.
Seeing and holding the lockets of her hair
My face became all eyes, and my eyes all hands.
Translator: Shahram Shiva

Is that not beautiful?

I think love is an alchemy of souls. We all have this baggage, most of us. Survivors of sexual violence have more than usual. Love is transformative because it can help us peel away our layers of shame and pain.

Another from Rumi:

When the sweet glance of my true love caught my eyes,
Like alchemy, it transformed my copper-like soul.

Above poems from the books, Essential Rumi and Soul of Rumi both translated by Coleman Barks, and Thief of Sleep translated by Shahram Shiva.

As a teenage, I stumbled upon Rumi and Pablo Neruda, and within me a transformation began, and I remember standing at my window, looking out over the barn....I thought,"I want a man that is this, this poem, these words, this is the love I want." I wanted the personification of this love.

(I found it!)

I think this sort of poetic manifestation is a wonderful way to teach ourselves what we need to e looking for in a mate.

We are throwing back veils of shame and absorbed evil, perversion, and many generations(in most cases incest in multi generational) of painful legacies. My father altered my view of myself. His abuse of me was so overwhelming, on every level, I had to change my own eyes, my own perception in order to survive. We have all had to do this as survivors. How smart and resourceful we are! Yet now in the here and now it must be reworked. What good is our beauty if we refuse to FEEL it? What is our light for if not to illumine our spirit?

Osho --"Your whole idea about yourself is borrowed--
borrowed from those who have no idea of who they are themselves." Excerpts from this modern mystic.

After realizing the above, next comes this:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child
of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to
make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others."

Marianne Willaimson

It freaks the mind to think that we were precious children, innocent and angelic and beautiful, as all children are. We were humiliated and abused, so we tried in various ways to extinguish our light. Our light became a painful reminder of what was unseen, unacknowledged by our abuser. It taps into our rage. Where do we go with all of this rage? I feel direct anger and rage at my father. How do we know when we are feeling core feelings? I have felt myself literally releasing anger like tiny condensation from my skin, like a fog that my skin emits. I try not to avoid this when it comes. I try to surrender and let it seep out. The true self quakes when touched. Mine is, the truth collides into the self I had to create to survive. I can feel that little girl in me. I think we have to sit with and continue allowing the healing to come.

" as a flower blown out by the wind

goes to rest and cannot be defined

gone beyond all images-gone beyond the power of words "
From: Sutra Nipata

Of course I am going to keep trying to define verbalize and express! I have felt deeply the loss of who might I have become if not for the incest? I believe with all of my soul that who we could have been is still within, it is just a matter of finding him or her. Namaste, Sarah

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Love Joe Biden

The Violence Against Women Act: Celebrating 10 Years of Prevention
by Pat Reuss, Senior Policy Analyst
On one of those perfect, early-fall days in Washington, D.C., in 1994, a handful of NOW Action Center staff members and activists trooped over to the White House lawn to witness the signing of a crime bill.
Tucked away in the omnibus crime bill of dubious merit was the long-awaited Violence Against Women Act.
Like obedient fans, we cheered at this bill-signing, even though no one mentioned this monumental act. While waiting for someone to acknowledge VAWA's existence, we reminisced about the intense four-year effort expended to make it a reality.
The feat began in 1990, when Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and then Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., submitted a preliminary proposal to address the issue of violence against women. The two senators pulled together the anti-violence community's 15-year efforts with hopes a national conversation about violence prevention and services would begin.
Advocates led by NOW and NOW Legal Defense Fund pulled together a working group and began the daunting task of helping draft the proposal.
More than 2,000 field experts, state and national organizations came together in what is now known as The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
The task force had no money at its disposal and few staff members to work on the bill. Without email or cell phones, curly-paper fax machines allowed us to trade ideas and successes, model legislation and Congressional target lists. After completing the process of drafting the bill, the largest obstacle—getting VAWA passed—still lay before us.
To do so, the innovative, comprehensive legislation needed a large grassroots movement pushing it forward.
We reached out to every progressive organization on the books that focused on target issues from women's rights to civil rights, anti-poverty to unionization. We also called in help from experts in medicine, law enforcement and public policy.
Many said this homogenization of groups "watered down the movement," but it was essential in getting the bill passed with bipartisan attention and momentum. Other critics said VAWA asked for too much money. Still more critics considered the right to sue in federal court and a battered immigrant women's provision ideas that went beyond all reason.
Keeping our goal in mind, we persevered with the help of dedicated Congressional staff and members of Congress (no more than 15 total, sad to say). In the end, the bill offered almost everything we requested and gained 226 House and 68 Senate sponsors.
In 1994, Congress allocated money to begin the prevention and healing efforts, funding VAWA at the full $1.62 billion over six years. However, a new Congress that swept in that fall (and elected Newt Gingrich as speaker), refused to release the funds.
NOW's massive rally against violence the following spring broke the log jam at long last, and the changes began.
Enforced by then Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and promoted by former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, VAWA brought sexual and domestic violence out of hiding into the midst of a national discussion.
VAWA broadened the range of services and counseling available to women who become victims of abuse.
While we laud these accomplishments, work remains to be done in areas of prevention and eradication. Data needs to be continually collected and analyzed. Cutting-edge pilot programs must be developed to take on these issues. Programs must further educate the community at large about ways they can prevent and rid society of rape and domestic abuse.
Both women and men can be empowered to grapple with these issues, by confronting established values and societal norms for women, reinforced by mainstream media, the entertainment industry and conservative religious groups—to name a few.
Reminiscent of VAWA's early days, an equally exhausting battle waged in 2000 when Congress reauthorized the expanded and improved bill. VAWA expires in 2005, so advocates have already started working on a draft.
While the outcome of the November 2004 elections will determine the scope and coverage of the new bill, it behooves all of us to get involved in a social, cultural and political movement.
We must demand funding and leadership from our political leaders and insist on measures that will lead to true prevention, accountability and the eventual eradication of sexual and domestic violence.
Without this, VAWA will be just another grants program subject to the political whims of those in charge of dispensing the money.
NOW credits the following key resources: - Ten Years of VAWA Strengthening Anti-Sexual Violence Work- Using VAWA to teach grass roots activism and national coalition building
Editor's note: Pat Reuss was the lead lobbyist for VAWA and crafted the strategy that led to its passage.


Just a dash of sultry for all my girls. Go celebrate your body, make love, dance, dress up, move your body, move your soul, you are a WOMAN, absorb your own bliss and remember to feel your beauty. FEEL it. Love you all, S

Friday, August 22, 2008

Are You Weak For Needing Medication?

My answer: NO! I can not stress enough vigorous sweaty exercise, healthy diet, no soda, and some form of releasing-therapy, yoga, and chakra work are my main tools for dealing with any ongoing anxiety issues/PTSD fun:) Also, animals and nature.

Alternative Remedies from Ask the Mental Health Expert:
Q. I have always looked to alternative methods for dealing with my depression: yoga, meditation; holistic health practices. However, it's still there. (for years, decades). I feel I need a medication but feel disappointed that the symptoms have not been alleviated through natural remedies. I'm about to make an appointment with a psychiatrist to help me deal with this disorder. Any advice on getting past this hurdle and not feel as though I'm weak because I need medication?
A. First off, I hope you can give yourself some credit for seeking out a professional evaluation. I think that's an indication of your openness to new possibilities, and the realization that sometimes, even with our best efforts, we all need the help of others. This same kind of thinking may help you get over the hurdle of trying medication--but, first things first: I would not assume that you must take a medication for your problem, though one may be very useful.
Of the various alternative methods you mentioned, you did not say anything about getting into psychotherapy. There is excellent evidence that psychotherapy alone may be effective for mild-to-moderate cases of depression-and perhaps even some severe cases-particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Psychotherapy could certainly be considered, depending on the severity of your symptoms, with medication added on if things don't improve over 1-3 months. (Most of the evidence suggests that the most effective regimen for moderate-to-severe depression is a combination of psychotherapy and medication).
It would also be important to make sure there are no medical factors that might be contributing to your chronic depression; e.g., low thyroid function. Now, as to the notion that taking a medication suggests weakness, this is a fairly common attitude in our culture. I suspect it is a remnant of our Puritan heritage, and the notion that we need to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps". This is fine, if you have boots, but not everybody does! Almost certainly, some of us are born with biochemical factors that predispose us to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders. To a large degree, we may be able to think, or meditate, or exercise ourselves out of mild depressive states. But when depression becomes persistent or severe, and begins to interfere with our social and vocational function, medication may be necessary to restore the natural balance of chemicals in the brain. It would be analogous to your having too little of a particular hormone in your body, and needing a hormonal replacement for it. This is not to say that conventional antidepressants are natural body chemicals--but they may help restore the brain's natural balance.
By the way, there are some non-traditional and herbal agents that may have antidepressant properties, though I definitely do not recommend trying these on your own-they may have side effects that are not advertised. However, you can discuss these options with the psychiatrist. Finally, keep in mind this metaphor: medication is not a crutch, but a bridge--a bridge from feeling depressed to feeling better. You will still have to do the walking to get across that bridge. This may mean psychotherapy, or continuing to do many of the things that you already do, such as meditation and exercise. All those things together may be greater than the sum of the parts.
For more information, I recommend John Medina's book, "Depression: How it Happens, How It's Healed" (available through CME LLC). Good luck with your new path, whatever that turns out to be.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Expert Voices - Gavin de Becker

Expert Voices - Gavin de Becker
Gavin de Becker, America’s leading expert on predicting violent behavior, has given Safer Child permission to print an excerpt from his second book, "Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)." In "Protecting the Gift," he offers us ways to protect our children and to teach our children how to protect themselves – by learning how to size up a potentially dangerous situation, by responding to our intuition, and by reacting effectively should we be confronted with a threat.
Excerpt from Chapter Five ("Talk to Strangers") from Gavin de Becker’s
"Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)."
"Never Talk to Strangers"
Somehow we believe that if we teach this to our children, if we’re certain they fully understand it, if they get it right every time we quiz them on it – if all that happens, they’ll be safe. With some urgency, we implore, "You understand, right? Never talk to strangers. Tell Daddy again, okay?" In the world we cannot control, we can control at least one thing: Our children will know The Rule. Really, however, all we can be certain of is that they can recite it.
Children are taught The Rule when young, but the very week it’s handed down, they see their parents violate it over and over. And they are themselves encouraged to violate it: "Say hello to the nice lady," "Answer the man’s question," "Tell Mr. Evans your name." What children actually learn is: Never talk to strangers unless they are wearing a clown suit or a uniform, or they work at the bank, or they’re registering us to vote, or they’re seeking signatures on a petition, or they’re handing out tasty samples, or they’re nice.
Never Talk to Strangers, it turns out, isn’t a rule after all, but a highly flexible and incomprehensible concept that only Mom and Dad really understand – if even they do.
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The list of violently inclined predatory criminals defeated because a parent told his or her child not to talk to strangers isn’t long enough to be called a list at all. More to the point, young children told not to talk to strangers do talk to strangers anyway. On a powerful segment of the Oprah Winfrey Show, children were successfully lured away from inattentive parents time after time. Ken Wooden, the author of Child Lures, is among the nation’s most effective advocates for children’s safety. He described his appearance on the program:
"Oprah’s producers and I approached several young mothers in a suburban park to ask for their cooperation with our experiment. Each mother emphatically insisted that her child would never leave the park with a stranger, then watched in horror from a distance as her youngster cheerfully followed me out of the park to look for my puppy. On average, it took thirty-five seconds to lure each child away from the safety of the park."
(This Oprah Winfrey program, aired on September 27, 1993, can be ordered through Burrelle’s Transcripts 800-777-8398. Title: "Child Lures.")
Clearly, the children lured away by this ploy were not ready to be on their own, and they were too far away from their mothers. I’ve observed people leave a small child farther away than they’d ever leave a purse or briefcase. Of course, a purse or briefcase isn’t expected to protect itself, and herein lies this huge fallacy at the center of The Rule. It assumes that a small child has something to contribute to his or her own protection, and that’s just not true.
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Reliance upon a child in such high-stakes matters is misplaced. Imagine selecting a five-year-old baby-sitter for your child. Many parents have done virtually that by placing part of the responsibility for a child’s personal security on the child. I heard one parent say about The Rule, "We’ve told her a hundred times, but she just doesn’t get it." Then think of that as your starting point: She doesn’t get it. Maybe because she’s too young, or maybe because she just doesn’t get it, but listen to that fact. When we assume that a young child will reliably do what we say in our absence, or that doing it will keep him or her safe, we are choosing to share our duty with the least qualified person available. We’d actually find a more reliable guard for our children by choosing a total stranger.
Even if I believed in the effectiveness of The Rule it would be hard to endorse the ways it is often taught. Here’s a passage from a children’s book entitled Never Talk to Strangers: "If you are hanging from a trapeze and up sneaks a camel with bony knees, remember this rule, if you please – Never Talk to Strangers." The book goes on to discuss grouchy grizzly bears, parachuting hawks, a rhinoceros waiting for a bus, coyotes asking the time, cars with whales at the wheel, etc. With all due credit to the author, whose heart was surely in the right place, how effective can this be? Some people might judge effectiveness by a child’s ability to recite the catchy rhymes, but that’s a test of memory, not a test of the ability to protect oneself.
Even if a child fully learns and embraces the rule of not talking to strangers, many kids believe a stranger is an unshaven man in tattered clothes; neither the nice neighbor nor the guy at the check-out counter is one of those.
In addition to the fact that it doesn’t work, The Rule actually reduces safety in several ways. One is that within the message Never Talk to Strangers (because they may harm you) is the implication that people you know will not harm you. If stranger equals danger, then friend equals safety. But the opposite is true far more often. First of all we are inherently more protected against a stranger; he must get around the defense systems of the parent and the child. The friend, conversely, is ushered inside the gates and given a pass. The friend has been gifted with what every predator must work to gain: trust and access. So, the issue isn’t strangers versus acquaintances; it is people who might harm your child versus people who won’t, people who deserve your trust versus people who don’t.
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Until a child is old enough to understand what predatory strategies look like, old enough and confident enough to resist them, assertive enough to seek help, powerful enough to enforce the word No – until all that happens, a child is too young to be his own protector, too young to merit any of your reliance, too young to be part of the defense system, period.
Presumably, The Rule is intended to provide protection in the event the child is alone somewhere, because if a parent is present, then what difference does it make if a young child speaks with a stranger? The irony is that if your child is ever lost in public, the ability to talk to strangers is actually the single greatest asset he could have. To seek assistance, to describe one’s situation, to give a phone number, to ask advice, to say No – all these interactions require the child to speak with strangers. If kids view talking to strangers as the threshold they mustn’t cross, then when they do cross it (and they will), they have no further tools. Talking is just talking, after all, but since what we really want to avoid is our child going somewhere with someone, that’s the thing to teach them about (more on this in Chapter 6).
Another way The Rule reduces safety is by providing unearned peace of mind; because of it, some parents don’t take other precautions. But there’s still another, more pervasive way The Rule reduces safety: Children raised to assume all strangers might be dangerous do not develop their own inherent skills of evaluating behavior. The Rule hurts all of us by producing generation after generation of people who fear people, mostly because they don’t understand them. Fear of people is really the fear that we can’t predict their behavior.
Recognize that for every person you encounter who might hurt your child, there are literally millions who will not. Does it make sense to treat everyone as if they are in the dangerous group? That’s exactly what modern Western society has done. Ironically, adults end up being more loyal to The Rule than children: We, unlike people in many cultures, pass each other on streets and in hallways without acknowledgment.
Yet communicating with strangers is part of the test human beings are built to use to confirm that strangers are of good will. Just like animals, we have a complex system for evaluating the intent of those we encounter. In less fractured cultures, strangers exchange signals as they pass each other, signals that usually communicate, I mean you no harm. It might be a nod, a slight smile, a wave, or a greeting that puts both people at ease, but millions of Americans don’t participate.
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That’s why being in the presence of a stranger can be uncomfortable or even frightening. You see, since we more than most species need to be reassured about the intent of others, that discomfort you feel in the elevator with a stranger is natural. Your body is waiting to be put at ease when the stranger passes a test. The tension is instantly broken when your nod solicits a smile, or when a comment initiates a cordial exchange of words.
Though this book focuses on violence, let’s recognize that human beings are perhaps the most cooperative species on earth. Most animals live within a herd, flock, or hive, resisting contact with outsiders in their own species. In contrast, we spend much of our time in the presence of strangers, far from our home tribe. This works only because we can readily determine who is safe for us to be around and who is not. Human beings predict dangerousness (and far more often predict safety) automatically and with astounding accuracy – but not if we avoid the very things that inform our intuition. It is an individual’s behavior, not merely his species, which might warn us of danger, and communicating is how we find our comfort and our safety.
Bottom line: The issue isn’t strangers, it is strangeness. It is inappropriate behavior that’s relevant: a stare held too long, a smile that curls too slowly, a narrowing or widening of the eyes, a rapid looking away. The muscles in the face are instruments of communication, resulting in an eloquent language that can put us at ease or give us the creeps.
About the Author: Gavin De Becker, best-selling author of "The Gift of Fear," is America’s leading expert on predicting violent behavior. A three-time presidential appointee, he’s advisor to such clients as the C.I.A. and the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s also the co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and co-founder of Victory Over Violence, an organization that assists battered women and their children.
(For more on protecting your children from attack, please see the Safer Child Protection page)

Gavin de Becker
Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as our nation's leading expert on the prediction and management of violence. He is the best-selling author of The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift.(Read what people are saying about this important book for parents.)His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He was twice appointed to the President's Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Justice, and was a principal advisor on the federal research project into mentally ill people who stalk public figures. He served two years on the Governor's Advisory Board at the California Department of Mental Health. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.
As a consultant to many major media figures, government agencies, Fortune-500 companies, and universities, he has overseen the assessment and management of more than 25,000 cases. Clients include the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Los Angeles County District's Attorney's Office, and many others.
Mr. de Becker has appeared as an expert on every major news show and has been interviewed several times by Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Maria Shriver, Sam Donaldson, Mike Wallace, and Ed Bradley. He's been quoted and profiled in TIME and Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, the New York Times, and many other publications. He is also a Contributing Editor for USA WEEKEND Magazine. As a regular speaker to law enforcement, government, and victims groups, he has addressed such topics as stalking, mental illness in America, workplace violence, public figure safety, crimes against women, and protecting children from violence.
Mr. de Becker's first book The Gift of Fear was an instant #1 national bestseller, and spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list. It has now been published in fourteen languages.
Return to Protecting the Gift: Keep Your Children Safe!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

You Keep On Pushing Me Over the Borderline: Personality Disorder, That Is

You Keep On Pushing Me Over the Borderline:
Personality Disorder, That Is

Borderline Personality Disorder, a controversial mental disorder, is one of the major personality disorders. The first significant psychoanalytic work to use the term "borderline" occurred in 1938. The term Borderline was first used to describe a person who seemed on the “borderline” of neurosis and psychosis, or nearing a schizophrenic state. Personality refers to an ongoing, continuous pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that form who we are. When elements of someone’s thought patterns, feelings, or behaviors are pervasively negative, causing significant interpersonal issues in life, the possibility of a disorder exists. Because personalities form and are developing throughout one’s early life, the condition is not usually diagnosed until later on.
Borderline Personality Disorder: those three words can strike terror into the heart of anyone, therapists and psychiatrists notwithstanding. There is a copious amount of stigma associated with BPD. The controversy surrounds the idea that given this diagnosis, the whole person is pathologically flawed and problematic, rather than just a part of said person. Other synonymous names for BPD include Emotional Regulation Disorder which is very commonly used along with Emotional Intensity Disorder. It is seen in 10% of psychiatric outpatients, and 20% of psychiatric inpatients.

Borderline Personality Disorder is generally characterized by impulsive actions, rapidly shifting moods, and stormy relationships. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity. “Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone”, states the National Institute of Mental Health.

Specifically, symptoms include self harm, such as cutting oneself, or repeated attempts or hints about committing suicide. Frantic attempts to avoid real or imagined abandonment occur, as in threatening to harm yourself if someone leaves, or threatening to hurt them if they leave you. Alternating between idealizing a person and demonizing them is also common. Borderlines tend to have a very shaky sense of self. They tend to fluctuate in confusion over sexual identity. Compulsive behaviors are common, such as gambling, overspending, abusing drugs and alcohol, driving recklessly, and risky sex, and binge eating. Another element of the disorder is known as splitting: friends, family, loved ones are viewed as "all good" or "all bad." There is no middle ground, no in-between.
The affected might form an immediate and intense attachment to a person, at first idealizing them, only to jump to extremes of anger and resentment if any perceived or actual separation happens. For example, a patient whose therapist goes on vacation may freak out and feel hatred at the therapist for “abandoning” them. The DVSM says of the issue of anger, “The anger is often elicited when a caregiver or lover is seen as neglectful, withholding, uncaring, or abandoning. Such expressions of anger are often followed by shame and guilt and contribute to the feeling they have of being evil.” They try to deal with feelings of emptiness and rage by acting out toward those around them-blaming, criticizing, abusing verbally or physically, accusing them of things that are often outrageous. Attempting to set boundaries with a person with BPD can be excruciating as they are capable of great maliciousness. Often, loved ones feel they must “walk on eggshells” in order to avoid the outcome of crossing said affected person.
A person diagnosed with is extremely sensitive to rejection and has trouble with what is known as “object constancy”. He or She feels difficulty with emotional connection to important people when they are physically absent. The psychic infrastructure, the emotional skeletal system as it were- within the disordered person is dysfunctional, thus they are unable to seek comfort in an internalized image of another person. For example, through the repeated consistent comings and goings of mother , AND through the toddler’s genetic ability to adapt (ego endowment), a new image of mother begins to shape internally. The toddler’s capacity to internalize his mother through traces of memory serves as a source of comfort and security when she is not available in a physical sense. The nurturing and soothing mother is internalized as a constant object. This is known as object constancy.
One woman diagnoses with BPD said, "One day I would think my doctor was the best and I loved her, but if she challenged me in any way I hated her. There was no middle ground as in like. In my world, people were either the best or the worst. I couldn't understand the concept of middle ground." People who love and care for a person with BPD usually feel like they are walking on egg shells, and try to avoid horrible rows by hiding their thoughts and feelings. You may feel blamed for everything that goes wrong, even when it is not logical. You may not know who you are living with, the loving person you fell in love with seems to be replaced with a tyrannical rageaholic. People with BPD are in pain, as are the people who love them. When one has BPD, one has difficulty with emotional control. They are often in a state of upheaval, seemingly forever involved in drama and chaos — perhaps as a result of harmful childhood experiences or brain dysfunction.
With borderline personality disorder one’s image of oneself is extremely distorted. The resulting feeling about oneself is that of worthlessness and intrinsic badness. Sometimes, one with BPD feels as if they don't exist at all.
This drama, anger, impulsivity and frequent mood swings push others away, though paradoxically there is yearning for loving relationships.

Neurobiology is a factor in BPD. Studies show that people predisposed to impulsive aggression have impaired emotional regulation, the neural circuits that modulate emotion are not working properly. A small almond-shaped structure deep inside the brain, the amygdala, is an important component of the circuitry regulating negative emotion. It marshals fear and arousal, and if dysfunctional, may explain why BPD sufferers are so hyper sensitive. A plausible explanation is sexual abuse in childhood. Forty to 71 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused.
The primary treatment for BPD is psychotherapy. This can be tricky however, as some with BPD are extremely resistant to getting treatment. They tend to see therapist’s as threatening, and harbor deep hostility of which they may or may not be aware.
Symptom-targeted pharmacotherapy is another useful treatment option.
If you or someone you love are in need of help, do not hesitate to seek it. Keep yourself safe, have compassion but do not be a doormat. Set boundaries and fortify yourself against the inevitable “borderline bait” as I call it, where the affected possibly responds malignantly and spitefully.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “If you notice these things in a family member or friend, talk to him or her about seeing a doctor or mental health provider. But keep in mind that you can't force someone to seek help. If the relationship has you unduly distressed, you may find it helpful to see a therapist yourself.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Art of Mirroring by Sophia J. Wien-Kim, M.A. Drs

The Art of Mirroring
A Communication Skill To Faciliate A Healthy Sense Of Self For Your Young Child And Much More......
By Sophia J. Wien-Kim, M.A., Drs.
There's a book in every book store these days, which is called "Are You Somebody". It is a memoir by an Irish woman named Nuala O'Faolain. In the book she describes a lifelong, deep yearning for a gratifying connection to the world around her and a longing for love so deep, that it brings tears to your eyes. This is a woman who is successful in her career and became famous. But none of this ever eased her pain of not feeling loved and her struggle to develop a sense of self.
Nuala grew up with a mother so overwhelmed by the task of rearing her nine children that she took comfort in drinking, severely neglecting them. Her father was continuously absent too and used shame and punishment as a way of keeping the children in check.
It is clear that this is the root of Nuala's wounding.
All of her significant relationships failed, she never had children and is in pain about that too.
We are grateful that our children have had a better start in life. Yet we all struggle with questions like: what does it take to provide your child with a healthy and strong sense of self? How do I avoid making the mistakes my parents made? How do I provide the basics, the safety, support and structure (boundaries) my child needs at each stage in her development?
No matter how much you struggle or how confused you might be, there is an approach with which you never fail. It is using a communication technique called "mirroring", which originates from the Imago Relationship Theory developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD.
Mirroring is literally and accurately reflecting back what the other is telling you. The purpose of mirroring is to let the your child know you are willing to put aside your thoughts and feelings for a moment to really listen and understand her point of view.
When you mirror your child, you make it clear that she (or he) is getting your undivided attention. It is a way to honor your child's reality - to respect her in her feelings, awareness and the expression of both.
When you mirror your child, you will convey that she is allowed to communicate what she needs and that you will always respond. It is a way of letting your child know that whatever she is experiencing makes sense, ambivalent feelings and all, and that it is your task to decode, to translate, to understand.
By mirroring, you make your child feel safe and protected. Mirroring promotes "moments of oneness", ongoing experiences of connection and bonding - experiences that are extremely important for the child's confidence.
Through mirroring you let the child know she is acceptable, adequate, valued, worthy and treasured. Your child will, over time, start thinking about herself in those terms. She will grow strong, resilient and be able to manage her life, her emotions and her tasks - and have healthy relationships with others as well.
Whenever your child seems demanding or difficult, whenever you see behavior that you don't understand, keep mirroring and say to yourself "stay with it" and then mirror again if needed. You will see that when you take the time to mirror, your child will relax when frustrated or in distress. When you need to set boundaries your child will inevitably be upset, because she is confronted with something she wants, but cannot have. Mirror the fact that she wants what she wants and that this makes sense and then mirror the frustration of not getting it. Ultimately your child is going to quiet down and be okay - validated in her emotions, so that she will learn to trust her inner life and develop a secure sense of self.
Mastering the "Art of Mirroring" will break negative patterns of communication, and will redirect and strengthen the parent-child relationship. Mastering the Art of Mirroring will also have a profound effect on your child's life, the way she will think about herself and the way she will progress in the world.
Note: I used the term mirroring as opposed to dialogue with respect to communication with the young child , because it needs to be absolutely clear that it s about the child's and not about the parent's needs.
Sophia J. Wien-Kim, M.A. Drs. has been part of the Imago Community since 1991. She is a certified Imago therapist with Advanced Clinician standing and has private practices in New York City and Port Washington, Long Island. Sophia can be reached by Tel. (212) 721-6660, ext. 2, Fax (516) 767-4247 and