Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Salute and A Prayer

Teachers can take a lot of guff in our society and, when that is deserved, be it from abusing a child or colluding to cover up abuse, they deserve not only the guff but a stiff criminal penalty. But truth is, in addition to teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, teachers and their administrators often are our children's first lines of defense at school, whether the danger be a sexual predator or a madman with enough rounds of ammunition to obliterate multiple classrooms. This is one of the reasons I and my associates work so hard with teachers and school administrators to get all staff trained in abuse prevention/response and encourage community parents to get trained themselves and insist on such training for their schools. 

My hat is off to the many teachers and other staff who have worked so hard with me in that endeavor, inviting me to train at their schools, beseeching their superiors to make such education mandatory, laboring to understand an aching child's symptoms in an effort to help, agonizing when they realize their charges have been suffering. My hat is off to, and my heart aches for, those children who have been victims when such measures and caring were not in place. In the wake of the tragedy in my beloved home state of CT, my hat is off to, and my heart aches for, especially, those teachers and staff who literally put themselves between the killer and the kids on Friday in Newtown, wanting nothing more than to keep those children safe. 

May we never forget and may their memories be forever for a blessing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oh, yes...

"The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand." 
        ~ Dr. Irene C. Kassorla

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Angel Haze

Wow...this young singer tells it just like it is in her song "Cleanin' Out My Closet," which can be found on YouTube. It is raw, raw, raw and as real as it gets from a survivor; the title alone is  amazing. 
WARNING: if you believe that a brutally honest, blunt language recounting of someone's child sexual abuse experience will trigger you, do not watch the video.  If you do choose to watch, listen carefully to her words, her feelings, her vehement assertions.
Below is the link to the NYT article about her...have a look: 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sentencing Day

"The crime is not only what you did to their bodies but to their psyches and their souls and the assault to the well-being of the larger community in which we all live." - Judge John Cleland.
And so many who knew did nothing...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Letter to E.L. James From Darkness To Light Founder Anne Lee

As I've traveled this road combating child sexual abuse, few people have impacted the journey more than Anne Lee. A true inspiration, Anne was the visionary who, in 2001, founded Darkness To Light, the non-profit based in Charleston, SC, whose mission is to educate adults to "prevent, recognize and react responsibly" to child sexual abuse. 11 years after its creation, Darkness To Light continues to educate thousands of adults each year. Authorized facilitators around the globe lead the acclaimed 2.5 hour Stewards of Children, the abuse prevention training named the Crime Prevention Program of the Year in 2007 by the National Crime Prevention Council.
Though Anne is no longer at the helm of Darkness To Light, her impassioned work to end child sexual abuse continues. Her new consulting group, Greater Good Advisors, is about to launch. In April 0f 2011, she was named a "Hero Among Us" by People Magazine.
I am thrilled to host Anne here for a guest post, a letter to "Fifty Shades of Grey" author E. L. James. I warn you now - if you do not want the hows and whys of Christian Grey revealed to you, don't read this post. For all others, Anne's words speak for themselves. As someone with an abuse background, I wasn't sure when I went to read James' first book in the trilogy if it might be triggering. But I, like so many, enjoyed the story and the relationship portrayed and, particularly, the humanity of the characters, especially Christian. He is a complex man. Anne understands that, too, and as she has many times before, she sees a teaching opportunity. Have a look. 
Thanks, and kudos, Anne Lee, for all you've done to make this world a better place for children.

Dear Ms. James,

As the founder of Darkness to Light, - the nation's only evidence-based primary prevention program educating adults about child sexual abuse, with over 5000 facilitators in 49 states and 15 countries - I want to applaud your huge success and telling the story of the "50 Shades" from the majorly important and seldom told point of view of Christian's pain and childhood trauma. Maybe one of the reasons so many resonate with "50" is that approximately 20% of all adults have sexual abuse in their history. Horrifically amazing, but true. 
My fervent hope is that as the movie is created and developed, the core issue of his abuse is not glossed over. As a consultant, I would be delighted  to work with your team.  We have an opportunity through this movie to bring the conversation of  physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect to the forefront of societal consciences. The demand for prevention and the creation of a national standard of care for our children might be made reality through efforts like yours. I know you get it. I can tell from your writing. In many ways you wrote my story - like so many others.  
May the light go before you and all that is good find its way to you.  For this huge work, I thank you. 


                                                               Anne Lee  
                                                Greater Good Advisors, LLC
                                                      672 Ellis Oaks Avenue
                                                       Charleston, SC 29412

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beautiful Gabby Douglas

My blood has been boiling lately regarding the disgraceful public words directed at Olympic champion Gabby Douglas' appearance. Floored by what we were hearing about her hair and her teeth, my family and I were perplexed. Huh??? What we saw each and every time we watched her compete and interview was an adorable, talented, hard-working, talented, bright, talented teenager. An incredible inspiration to every other child. Who were these people seeing something else? What was happening in their heads that even allowed space for such garbage? And garbage it was/is, garbage that also goes by another name: bullying.
Whenever I land on an internet page that invites public comments, I recoil at the trash (usually anonymous or via pseudonym) directed at others. Nasty words about being ugly or "too" fat or "too" thin, to name a few, safely hurled from behind the coward's anonymous facade. I've said for years that those remarks are bullying, plain and simple, a stark reminder of just what kind of example we as a society set for our children when, ironically, simultaneously, we are rallying against child-to-child bullying, ramping up workshops and trainings to fight it. Are these people jealous? Do they hate their own lives, their own hair and teeth? Their own inability to shine in some aspect of their lives?
How on earth can we say to our children, "You must not bully" when we adults do the very same thing? How can we effectively crack through the psyches of bullying adults so they look in the proverbial mirror and truly see themselves? How do we inspire kindness and character in human beings who've already, theoretically, grown up? I can tell you this: until we do and our children see adults behaving well toward one another, bullying between children will continue. No amount of words will make the difference - only behavior. The number one rule of teaching children is to lead by example - they watch us closely, taking it all in and then they follow the leader.
Time for us to lead better.
Until then, I say to Gabby Douglas, "You ROCK! Go out there with that beautiful head held high and grab your future the way you grabbed that All-Around medal. I know my family and I will be cheering your every step! Go, Gabby!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Syracuse Y Leads The Way In Prevention

Just a few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of traveling to Syracuse, NY to lead a Darkness To Light Facilitator Workshop. Thanks to the determined efforts of the Syracuse Y's team leaders and workshop organizers, Kelly Miner and Cheryl Walker, folks attended from near and far, representing, among others, YMCAs, social service groups and child protective services. We learned together, shared with each other and by day's end I knew that 16 more empassioned, empowered leaders were heading back to their communities well prepared to educate adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse via Stewards of Children.
Despite the long day that goes with a facilitator workshop, there is never a time when I don't leave feeling rewarded and enriched, both from having engaged with a new set of attendees and the knowledge that children in their spheres will be better served. I always hope that the workshop experience will stay with them as they pursue their prevention endeavors, knowing that, at least for 8 intense hours, they were surrounded by like-thinking people devoted to protecting kids.
Thank you, Cheryl and Kelly for a meaningful day and wonderful opportunity.

Photo: Cheryl Walker, me, Kelly Miner

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's Your Policy?

Whether you are a youth-serving organization or just a plain old adult making decisions on behalf of the children in your life, you need policy. Child safety policy. I encourage you to visit Darkness To Light and Stop It Now for more information on how to create the best possible policies in your orgs and in your lives. You are also welcome to contact me for any information regarding policy and prevention. It's time to change our culture to one that does not tolerate child sexual abuse.

"Saddening and Sobering"

From NYT:
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims,” said Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who oversaw the investigation.
“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Justice Has Been Served

Thanks to the brave voices of the young men who spoke out about their abuse, Jerry Sandusky will be spending the rest of his life in prison. As to Penn State, which issued a statement referring to the "tremendous respect" the school has for the victims/survivors, where was that "tremendous respect" when Sandusky's actions came to light? When he was seen in the shower assaulting a child? When it was time to report to authorities and keep him from abusing ever again?
There are many sad tales attached to this Sandusky/Penn State saga, but the lesson is this: every adult needs to understand how his/her choices profoundly affect the children in their sphere. No more secrets, no more shame - insist on child safety policies in all your youth-serving organizations, know your state's reporting policies, speak with children of all ages about boundaries and their right to say "no" to ANY adult. If a child discloses abuse to you, stay calm, make sure the child knows you believe and support him/her, call the authorities immediately. Get educated about child sexual abuse - how it happens, how it perpetuates. Only then will we be able to change our thinking and our culture to one that places top priority on preventing, recognizing and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On Father's Day...

It's been 5 years since the Canton Journal published this Father's Day piece of mine, just months after the death of my dad. It still rings true, so I share it with you here today. To all my dad friends out there, have a wonderful day.

This will be my first Father's Day without my father.  He died in January, on my birthday, after a long decline from heart disease.  After 48 years of greeting cards and phone calls, Aramis and neckties, it’s time to find a new way to celebrate this most important man in my life on this designated day.
I've been doing my crying and mourning, as well as celebrating and laughing (thanks to great memories), all a tribute to his unique character and our deeply strong bond.
Our relationship, tight from the start, was tempestuous. Dad had a temper and when I was a child his primary method of communicating displeasure was screaming and yelling. 
His round face would get red, his eyes could bulge and I, quite young, was scared to death—and confused. This same man could also be full of fun and humor, delivering to my brother and me hugs and kisses, cheek squeezes and “push-downs” at night when we would go to bed. A “push-down” consisted of tickling and, when we would laugh so hard we wanted to escape, he would, gently, push us down, back into the bed and pillows. 
Never afraid to say, “I love you,” he said so often, especially in his later years, when we were acutely aware of the gift of each day together.
After revealing to him and my mother that I had been abused at the age of 7 by a long deceased friend of theirs, he showed sides of himself that, even after all our years together, I had never seen. 
One afternoon, when I was feeling particularly sad, he sat quietly with me on my aunt’s couch and I laid my head on his chest, something in all my life I couldn’t remember doing. We sat and sat, sometimes talking, sometimes not, and I felt comforted. Other times, he would simply hold my hand, and the feel of his skin, in particular, the nuance of that space just above his thumb, above the crevice between thumb and forefinger, remains vibrant in my memory. In fact, these two particular memories, sense memories, as actors call them, became my biggest sources of solace after he died. When I would wake in the middle of the night filled with pain and anxiety that I would never see him again, I would eventually imagine myself being held by him and holding his hand, and I could sleep. He himself was comforting me in the loss of him.
Two weeks before he died, he called my cell and left a particularly long message, one that encompassed so much of his personality. There was humor and pathos (as he lamented his declining health), as well as several various expressions of his love for me and my family. I have never erased this message, nor will I, and every 21 days, when my voicemail service reminds me that I have "one message whose retention time has expired,” I gear up to hear him again. For months I could only cry when I listened, but just the other day I found myself beaming at hearing his voice calling, “hello” in his unique, aging tone. 
Several days after his death and my birthday, the mail arrived containing the greeting card he and my mom had sent. He had never before written his own separate message in their cards, but this time he had, and there, in his handwriting was his own expression of good wishes and love, infused with a cheerleader-like celebration of me, his daughter, of whom he was so proud.
And so, on this latest Father’s Day, I think I will honor him, and him and me, by reopening the gifts he gave me before he died. I will listen to my message, read my birthday greeting, feel him holding my hand and my head and, of course, my heart. A little whiff of Aramis, maybe a bite of his favorite food, a hot dog, and the day will be complete. Though desperately sad that I will not be able to call him and speak of today, I will embrace yesterday and make the day, and his memory, shine.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stoughton, MA Firefighters/EMTs Step Up to Fight Child Sexual Abuse

Kudos to Old Colony YMCA volunteer and Darkness To Light facilitator Christine Iacobucci for training 44 of Stoughton's Firemen/EMTs this week! Thank you to Chief Dolloff and his wonderful team for taking time to learn, share and help move prevention of child sexual abuse forward. This 2.5 hour training was named the Crime Prevention Program of the Year in 2007 by the National Crime Prevention Council. Old Colony is currently able to offer it to residents/youth-serving organizations at no cost to attendees. To learn more, please contact me: 781-264-0181 or