An Old Message in New Ways (and free stuff)

My life has had some serious struggles. But God has used my experiences to help and encourage others. It’s a privilege to be able to serve others with what I’ve learned.

I spent the past week or so updating my website to better serve my audience. Those of you who have been subscribed to my blog will notice right away that it looks very different. I changed the cover photo to a sunset on Molasses Pond. I took that photo while sitting on the swing at our family cabin this spring. That spot, watching sunsets like the one pictured, is where I am most at peace in this world. That is why I wanted to feature it on my website. I hope when you visit my website, you feel the same peace taking in that view.

The other major change is a new page: Free Downloads. Click the Free Downloads tab on the home page, and you’ll find things I am offering for free to help you, your friends, your church or organization, or anyone who can use them. Right now, you’ll find three downloads, my article, “Keeping Children Safe: 5 Things Every Parent Can Do To Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse,” a brochure based on that article, and a brochure titled Hope for Survivors.

The brochures can be used in information racks or family resource areas or as handouts in parenting classes and survivor groups or as an invitation to a workshop. There is room on the back to include your church or organization’s info. You can contact me using my website’s contact form to set up a prevention workshop or to speak at your event or to facilitate creating a child safety policy or any other way I can serve you.

Thirty-three years ago, when my abuse became public knowledge and I read 2 Corinthians 1, that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort others, my initial reaction was “no way.” I never wanted anyone to know my afflictions, certainly not the abuse. But I realized that the ugly things in our lives have purpose. What was I going to do with that? I had found freedom from my past. How could I not want to share that with others in the same situation? My reluctant answer was, “OK God, use me however you want.”

Here I am, all those years later, having talked about my abuse in large groups as well as one-on-one for over thirty years, trying hard to use technology to better spread my message. I am technologically challenged, so this has been a stretch for me. But in order to best serve others, I need to learn to use technology, and I am thankful for those around me who are willing to help me when I’m ready to throw my computer out the window.

I hope you or someone you know will be blessed with what I have to offer. Keep an eye out for more downloads in the future. If you have an idea you’d like to see, let me know. And please share them with anyone who could use them. Thank you!

A Safe World?

I spent the past few weeks working on issues surrounding Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) for two different organizations. While I welcome those opportunities, sometimes the burden of talking about the ugliness of CSA gets a bit heavy.

So, when I recently read at least half a dozen Facebook posts claiming “we never had to worry about our safety when we were kids. We could walk around our neighborhoods, ride our bikes, and play at the park until suppertime without fear,” I thought, Really? The thing is, I grew up in the same era, and I was not safe walking the three blocks to the park. And, even though they didn’t know it, neither were they.

As elementary-school-age kids, a friend and I would hurry home on winter afternoons, grab our ice skates, and head off to the ice rink at our local park. We usually walked from school to her house, then to my house, then to the rink, all within a few blocks of each other. Donning our snow pants and skates, we’d hit the ice and spend about two hours skating around the oval rink—trying new moves, jumping onto a “snap the whip” line, diving onto the ice just to see how far we could slide.

It was a great time with lots of laughter. At five o’clock it would be time to go home. We’d tread to the park entrance, feeling like our skates were still on our feet. Then we parted ways, she would go straight, and I would turn left to get home.

A sex offender lived across the street from the park. I don’t think my friend ever knew he was there. She probably walked past, still giddy from our skating adventures, feeling no fear. I would walk past with rising anxiety, hoping not to encounter him. With my heart pounding and eyes darting, happy thoughts of an afternoon of winter fun melted away.

Winter was a safer season than the others. Spring and Fall, he was more likely to be outside. I don’t know if he really enjoyed gardening and yard work that much, or if he was outside looking for kids (or victims) coming from or going to the park. Summer was the worst. He didn’t just hang out at his house. He spent a lot of time at the park’s swimming pool, trolling for victims.

No, the little girls at the park or walking by his house were not safe. Although, most of them never knew they were in danger. For some of us, our lives were forever damaged, a piece of childhood lost forever. And because of the silence, secrecy, and shame associated with CSA, most victims never told anyone what was happening. That is how non-victims can be ignorantly thankful they grew up when the world was a “safe place,” blissfully unaware of the danger that lurked in their neighborhoods and the fear and pain some of their closest friends endured.

So, did they really live in a world where kids could walk around their neighborhoods, ride their bikes, and stay out until suppertime without worrying about being harmed? Fortunately, for them, that was the world as they knew it. I wish it had been the same world for all of us.

The man who abused me died a few months ago. A known offender is dead—our world is a little safer. Or is it? There will always be another to take his place, shattering the safe world of select children. Offenders may never be caught, but they, too, are wrong if they think they are safe. God is just.

“Behold, at that time I will deal
    with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.” Zephaniah 3:19 (ESV)

Centrally Speaking

This week’s blog post is a podcast. I know…it’s so 21st century of me. Rest easy, it wasn’t my idea. My good friend, Dr. Drake Williams at Central Schwenkfelder Church invited me to be a guest on their podcast.

This aired on WNPV last week. I pray that it will be helpful to other victims and survivors. Feel free to share it. Thank you, Drake and Central, for inviting me and for your support and concern for victims of abuse.