Thursday, 30 May 2013

Sibling Abuse - An Epidemic by @PatriciaSinglet

This is reblogged from my good friend Patricia Singleton who has her amazing blog, Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker HERE.




Sibling Abuse - An Epidemic

Hi, everyone. So sorry that I haven't been around lately. I am doing my best to finish up my husband Daniel's book editing so that it can be self-published by AuthorHouse Publishers. I did not know the book would take up so much of my time but I am the one of the two of us with the computer skills, as basic as they are. Last week, we decided to give up on converting the book from 8 1/4 inches by 11 inches to 6 inches by 9 inches. There were just too many problems created by changing the size and going from Microsoft Works to Microsoft Word. For the past week, we basically went back to the beginning with corrections and there were a lot of them. I hope to finish by the end of this week but that will depend upon whether I can figure out how to do the charts at the end of the book and the weather on Tuesday.

On Sunday and again today, Oklahoma has had severe storms, some resulting in tornadoes. My prayers are going out to everyone involved in those storms. Tomorrow - Tuesday, its Arkansas' turn to get possibly severe storms. That is why I am taking the time to write this today, in case my computer is unplugged because of storms tomorrow. Wherever you are, if you are in the path of these storms, stay safe. I am going to.

I wanted to let you know that three of my friends will be on the radio Wednesday evening on Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery on Blog Talk Radio. Wednesday night's shows are called Survivors World. The hosts are Patricia McKnight and Michal Madison. The Wednesday evening show starts at 8:00 p.m. CST in the U. S. If you miss the live show, you can still hear the talk from the archives of the shows at the link you will find below.

This week's guest is Nancy Kilgore, another friend of mine that I introduced you to a few years ago when she and I did a review of her book Girl in the Water. I will leave a link to that blog post at the end of this article, in case you missed it. Nancy is a sibling abuse and domestic violence survivor. She is an advocate for the silent survivors of sibling abuse. Sibling abuse is at epidemic rates around the world but nobody talks about it. To quote Nancy, "Each year, 19 million children are abused in their homes by their own sibling." That figure is just in the U. S.  You can find Nancy Kilgore, MS on Twitter under the name @SIBLINGSCANHURT. Her Twitter page says, "Nancy emerged from a horrific childhood of sibling abuse to become a survivor and voice of hope. Her website is:

On Wednesday, you will find Nancy, Patricia and Michal talking at the following link:

The show isn't listed there yet but it will be. In the meantime, you can listen to any of the other shows from the archives. Last week's guest was Ms. Lynn Tolson.  When you have the time to listen to the archives, you will find valuable information about a lot of different topics of interest to survivors.

Related Articles:

Guest Interview of Nancy Fox-Kilgore, M. S., Sibling Bully Activist @

GIRL IN THE WATER Author Nancy Fox-Kilgore On Conversations Live! Radio @

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Understanding Childhood Sexual Abuse

What is child sexual abuse?

There is no universal definition of child sexual abuse. However, a central characteristic of any abuse is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity. Child sexual abuse may include fondling a child's genitals, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and anal intercourse. Child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact; such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography. Abuse by peers also occurs.

Accurate statistics on the prevalence of child and adolescent sexual abuse are difficult to collect because of problems of underreporting and the lack of one definition of what constitutes such abuse. However, there is general agreement among mental health and child protection professionals that child sexual abuse is not uncommon and is a serious problem in the United States.

The impact of sexual abuse can range from no apparent effects to very severe ones. Typically, children who experience the most serious types of abuse—abuse involving family members and high degrees of physical force—exhibit behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to posttraumatic stress disorder. However, children who are the victims of sexual abuse are also often exposed to a variety of other stressors and difficult circumstances in their lives, including parental substance abuse. The sexual abuse and its aftermath may be only part of the child's negative experiences and subsequent behaviors. Therefore, correctly diagnosing abuse is often complex. Conclusive physical evidence of sexual abuse is relatively rare in suspected cases. For all of these reasons, when abuse is suspected, an appropriately trained health professional should be consulted.

Who Are The Victims?

Children and adolescents, regardless of their race, culture, or economic status, appear to be at approximately equal risk for sexual victimization. Statistics show that girls are sexually abused more often than boys are. However, boys' and, later, men's, tendency not to report their victimization may affect these statistics. Some men even feel societal pressure to be proud of early sexual activity (no matter how unwanted it may have been at the time). It is telling, however, to note that men who have been abused are more commonly seen in the criminal justice system than in clinical mental health settings.

Who are the perpetrators of child sexual abuse?

Studies on who commits child sexual abuse vary in their findings, but the most common finding is that the majority of sexual offenders are family members or are otherwise known to the child. Sexual abuse by strangers is not nearly as common as sexual abuse by family members. Research further shows that men perpetrate most instances of sexual abuse, but there are cases in which women are the offenders. Despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.

What are the effects of child sexual abuse?

Children and adolescents who have been sexually abused can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. These problems typically include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. Depending on the severity of the incident, victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behavior. However, the strongest indication that a child has been sexually abused is inappropriate sexual knowledge, sexual interest, and sexual acting out by that child.

The initial or short-term effects of abuse usually occur within 2 years of the termination of the abuse. These effects vary depending upon the circumstances of the abuse and the child's developmental stage but may include regressive behaviors (such as a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting), sleep disturbances, eating problems, behavior and/or performance problems at school, and nonparticipation in school and social activities.

But the negative effects of child sexual abuse can affect the victim for many years and into adulthood. Adults who were sexually abused as children commonly experience depression. Additionally, high levels of anxiety in these adults can result in self-destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation-specific anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Many victims also encounter problems in their adult relationships and in their adult sexual functioning.

Revictimization is also a common phenomenon among people abused as children. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to be the victims of rape or to be involved in physically abusive relationships as adults are.

In short, the ill effects of child sexual abuse are wide ranging. There is no one set of symptoms or outcomes that victims experience. Some children even report little or no psychological distress from the abuse, but these children may be either afraid to express their true emotions or may be denying their feelings as a coping mechanism. Other children may have what is called "sleeper effects." They may experience no harm in the short run, but suffer serious problems later in life. 

Can children recover from child sexual abuse?

In an attempt to better understand the ill effects of child abuse, psychologists and other researchers have studied what factors may lessen the impact of the abuse. More research needs to be done, but, to date, factors that seem to affect the amount of harm done to the victim include the age of the child; the duration, frequency, and intrusiveness of the abuse; the degree of force used; and the relationship of the abuser to the child.

Children's interpretation of the abuse, whether or not they disclose the experience, and how quickly they report it also affects the short- and long-term consequences. Children who are able to confide in a trusted adult and who are believed experience less trauma than children who do not disclose the abuse. Furthermore, children who disclose the abuse soon after its occurrence may be less traumatised than those children who live with the secret for years.

Some researchers have begun to look at the question of whether someone can recover from sexual abuse, and, if so, what factors help in that recovery. Children and adults who were sexually abused as children have indicated that family support, extra-familial support, high self-esteem, and spirituality were helpful in their recovery from the abuse.

It is important for victims of abuse to relinquish any guilt they may feel about the abuse. Victims also report that attending workshops and conferences on child sexual abuse, reading about child sexual abuse, and undergoing psychotherapy have helped them feel better and return to a more normal life. Research has also shown that often the passage of time is a key element in recovery.

Counseling and other support services are also important for the caregivers of abused children. One of the strongest predictors of the child's recovery from the abuse experience is a high level of maternal and family functioning. (This, of course, assumes that the abuser was not a member of the immediate family or, if so, is not still living within the family.)

Protecting children.

  • The typical advice "Don't Talk to Strangers" doesn't apply in this case. Most sexual perpetrators are known to their victims.
  • Do not instruct children to give relatives hugs and kisses. Let them express affection on their own terms.
  • Teach your children basic sexual education. Teach them that no one should touch the "private" parts of their body. A health professional can also help to communicate sex education to children if parents are uncomfortable doing so.
  • Develop strong communication skills with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
  • Teach your children that sexual advances from adults are wrong and against the law. Give them the confidence to assert themselves against any adult who attempts to abuse them.
  • Make an effort to know children's friends and their families.
  • Instruct your child to never get into a car with anyone without your permission.
  • Teach your children that their bodies are their own. That it is OK to say they do not want a hug or that certain kinds of contact make them uncomfortable.
  • It is important to remember that physical force is often not necessary to engage a child in sexual activity. Children are trusting and dependent and will often do what is asked of them to gain approval and love.
What to do if you think a child you know has been a victim of abuse.  

  • Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he or she has experienced, but be careful to not suggest events to him or her that may not have happened. Guard against displaying emotions that would influence the child's telling of the information.
  • Reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong.
  • Seek mental health assistance for the child.
  • Arrange for a medical examination for the child. Select a medical provider who has experience in examining children and identifying sexual and physical trauma. It may be necessary to explain to the child the difference between a medical examination and the abuse incident.
  • Be aware that many states have laws requiring that persons who know or have a reason to suspect that a child has been sexually abused must report that abuse to either local law enforcement officials or child protection officials. In all 50 states, medical personnel, mental health professionals, teachers, and law enforcement personnel are required by law to report suspected abuse.
 Courtesy of the American Psychological Association.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Family after child abuse by @CosimaZehring #childabuse #survivors

Family after child abuse

For survivors of child abuse, deciding how or if you should maintain relationships with your family of origin (family you were raised in) can be a difficult decision.  The survivor may change his/her mind many times as they contemplate the repercussions of the decision.   Most child abuse survivors find they have a mix of people who support them and those who don’t in their families.  This is when it is helpful to remember that your family is not ‘all or nothing’.  You can maintain relationships with some family members while losing connection to other family members.  The closer the relationship was when you were growing up, the harder it will be to let go.  Some child abuse survivors find that it’s easier to end relationships with people who don’t believe you were abused than those who believe it but don’t support your healing. 

Personally, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, deciding if and how to maintain a relationship with my family members was one of the longest struggles in my healing journey.  When I told my parents that I had been raped by a family member, they believed me.  I was elated!  My biggest fear was that no one would believe me and that I’d be forced to sever any contact with my family.  Between my therapist and books I had been reading I learned when child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a family member, sometimes other family members don’t believe the survivor.  I had even created an Action Plan on how I would handle the situation if they didn’t believe me.  I was as prepared as I could be to handle what I thought was the ‘worst case scenario’.

It didn’t even occur to me that my parents would believe me, but then expect me to go on with life exactly as it was.  I was told to keep it in the past and to “put it on a shelf and forget about it”.  When I said that I would never appear at family functions with my rapist again, I was told that I was being ridiculous and too demanding.  It would be too difficult to make sure he didn’t show up to family events and wasn’t I forcing them to choose between him and me?  How could I expect everyone else to change their lives around for me?  I was so hurt and shocked.  I honestly thought the worst thing that could happen after my family knew of my abuse was that they wouldn’t believe me.  It never even occurred to me that they would believe me, and then not respect my needs or support me. 

Not only was this a surprise for me, I was pretty new to the idea that I had boundaries and rights that I could and should protect.   Growing up in an abusive home, I didn’t know that I deserved or had rights of my own.  It felt difficult and awkward to begin asserting myself as an adult.  It became even more difficult to assert myself because when I did I was called selfish and unreasonable.   The same people who told me that my need to never see my rapist again was selfish would then end it by saying they love me.  It was so confusing.  I wanted to believe that they loved me, but how could I when they still wanted me to celebrate holidays with my rapist?  I needed them to pick a side.  It took me several years to see that by not supporting me, they were picking a side. 

When I finally chose to end my relationship with my father and stepmother, the decision was actually pretty easy.  It was the repercussions from that decision that were so difficult.  Friends and family members (even those who were abused themselves) couldn’t believe I was CHOOSING not to have contact with them.  “But he’s your father.”  I would hear over and over again.  “He’s not the one who hurt you” was another torturous phrase.  He was hurting me by denying me the dignity of never having to hear about or see my rapist again.  Even some books I read on recovering from child sexual abuse encouraged survivors to do whatever they had to do in order to maintain their relationship with their family. 

It was sad and lonely at first.  I started lying to friends about my family and how I spent my holidays because it was easier than explaining the truth.  Also, I was worried that I would be told, yet again, to do whatever I had to do to keep a relationship with my father.  After a few years, I began to slowly admit the truth to one friend at a time.  Surprisingly, many of my friends confessed to envying me.  They wished that they too could spend the holidays alone.  Some of them were abused as children and others just felt the holidays were too chaotic and wanted to relax instead.  Finally receiving support and understanding, helped me feel stronger and that I could trust myself to make the right choices for me.

It’s been over 15 years since I’ve spoken to my father and other members of my family.  Sometimes I still miss them.  I’m also beginning to see why some books stress the importance of maintaining relationships with our family of origins.  At times I feel groundless; as if by ending my relationship with my family members I’ve lost part of who I am.  Humans are social beings, we are storytellers and we need to hear who we were and who we are from others.  It’s harder to find that in people outside your family or origin, but it’s not impossible.  And it is certainly no reason to maintain toxic relationships.  

If you are questioning your family’s support, consider how you feel when you are with them and how you feel after you spend time with them.  Do you feel embarrassed or humiliated with them?  Do you feel drained, angry or defeated after talking to them?  Do you question yourself during or after seeing them?  Just remember that you are worthy of a family who loves and supports you.  That family is not always the family you are born into.  Many survivors find their first sense of family from friends and other survivors.   You deserve to feel the sense of safety and acceptance that comes from surrounding yourself with people who support and encourage you.

Cosima Zehring is the founder of Eternity’s Sunrise ( an online magazine for survivors of trauma.   Visit our website to find information, support and tools for the tough road of healing after abuse.

Follow Cosima on Twitter   @CosimaZehring

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Don't Dream It, Be It! #BeTheChange

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. " Mark Twain

We all have an amazing power within us, the power to bring about change. This change could be something within our own lives or something that affects our lives. 

How often do we hear it stated that one person can't change anything? This basically defeatist attitude is often implanted within us by society itself.  Nearly all the great changes brought about have been started by someone saying "this has to change". One persons desire to see and make a difference can become a deafening crescendo. One voice becoming a duet, a quartet, a choir. 

Change can be more personal too. Changing our own lives can be done quietly, steadfastly and successfully. The underlying requirement in any change is having the commitment to seeing it through.  

Our time on this planet is not a rehearsal. We cannot change the past but we can change our future. The past cannot be undone but we can stop it affecting our lives now. Changing how we deal with past events is more than possible. Firstly we have to want change.

The road does not have to be walked alone. Whatever your circumstances, you can get help in bringing about the change you want. Therapy, self help or support groups are invaluable. The online world has many options too. In this era of social media there is a never seen before opportunity to reach out and get help or to reach out to help someone else.

The ability to change is within all of us, as is the ability to raise our voices together and bring about change elsewhere. 

"Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi). Together we can “Be The Change”!!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Catch Me #poetry

In the dark,

I reached, I fell

I wanted you, grasped the air

You were not there

Your eyes

Black in black night

Not wavering there

I fell

Piercing down into dark

Screaming fear into night

Catch me

Catch my hurt

Catch me quietly

And if I laugh

Steal not my happiness

If I cry

Don't dry my tears

Just let me exist

Catch me.

The safety of your arms.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

What’s Your Reason To Fly? #childabuse #survivors @Together_WeHeal


What’s Your Reason To Fly?

I witnessed something this morning that at first made me immensely sad. Initially I thought someone had thrown something at my sliding glass door. When I rose to see who had done it, instead I discovered a tiny blue bird lying on the ground at my feet. Its’ fragile body was twisted sideways and I could see its’ heart pounding from beneath its tattered feathers. As I got closer, it lowered its’ head, its’ heart began to beat slower and I almost started to tear up as I thought I was witnessing the end of this little creature’s life.
My dog was inside going nuts wanting to get to the bird, so I led her away, and truthfully, I really didn’t want to see it die. Strange thing, death. I did my internship at the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office in the summer of 1996. I witnessed all manner of death that year. Every conceivable way a person could naturally or horrifically come to their end. The extreme ways in which one or more persons would look into the face of the evil inside to take another’s life. And yet, with the exception of the children’s deaths I saw, I accepted it as the natural occurrence of events, handled myself in a professional manner, and gained knowledge, insight and compassion in what turned out to be a transformative time of my life.
But for some odd reason, I don’t do well with the death of an animal. Especially if it’s been a pet of mine. Knowing this about me, understand why I just couldn’t watch this bird die. So I went back to the couch knowing it wouldn’t be long. I settled my dog down, gave it a few minutes and returned to what I knew was going to be a sad moment.
What I saw before me was remarkable. This brittle-boned fowl had managed to somehow shake the cobwebs out of its little bird-brain, straightened out its feathers, and was teetering back and forth like a heavyweight boxer would had just been given an almost knockout blow! Oh he was wavering back and forth, but he wasn’t down for the count just yet!
I sat down in awe as he fought with every instinct in his body and spirit to regain his composure and his life! As the minutes went on, the rocking back and forth stopped, his heart rate normalized, and eventually he even started to look around as if to say, “What the heck just happened to me?!”
At this point I opened the door, used my cane to scoop him up and onto the shrubs outside my patio so he would be free from ground predators like snakes, rats, etc. You know we have a few of those down here in south Florida.
As I placed him on the shrub, he even started to get his wings flapping. He wasn’t ready to take off yet, but you could tell it was only a matter of time and he was going to be just fine! I was so relieved! I lay back on the couch, watched him for the next 20 minutes and then, BAM, off like a rocket he shot! Flew away as if nothing happened!
This got me reflecting on the “sliding glass doors” that I’ve flown into! After all I have been through; after having been sexually abused as a child, addicted to narcotics in an attempt to numb my emotional pain, arrested, imprisoned, divorced, fired, kicked out, knocked down, and as we say in the south…”felt like I’d been rode hard and put up wet!” How on earth did I manage to do like that little bird? How did I shake off those cobwebs, dust myself off and get back on my feet again? One word – RESILIENT. The human spirit is amazing that way. Like those little birds’ instincts, so ours is to survive at all costs, no matter what’s happened to us.
For that little bird, he was born to fly and that’s what he knew he had to do again. I had to figure out my reason to “fly again”. All of our drive and reasons to push on, to fly again, have as many variables and possibilities as we are individuals. For me, mine is to keep other children from going through what I did and to help my fellow survivors begin to heal. I gain a little more altitude each time a person comes to me and says, “What can I do to better protect my child?” Or when a survivor says, “Thank you for telling your story. When I heard what you said, I knew I could move forward too.” Let me tell you something folks, I’ve done a lot of drugs, I’ve been as high as any addict out there. But for me now, there is no better “high”, no greater lift, then when you know you have helped someone struggling with what you’ve also been through.
So let’s all learn a little lesson from that tiny blue bird. Figure out your reason to fight like hell to survive, and no matter what happens…
…find your reason to fly.
David Pittman

Friday, 10 May 2013

Speaking Up And Speaking Out via @Hidden_Beth #endbullying

You know when you feel like the whole World is against you, when you walk down a street you feel that everyone’s eyes are on you, and that nobody can understand. That’s me, every single day.

The thing is though.. I’m not being bullied anymore, I’m just living with the affects of what happened to me. I wouldn’t change my past for absolutely anything though, I am such a different person, I like the way I treat people, I love what I am doing with my blog etc, I love how I have such big ideas regarding bullying and what more I can do, I have never been so motivated before.

The only thing keeping me here is my motivation to help others.

Every single day I go through the same thoughts and feelings, that I don’t want to live anymore, but I remind myself of my blog, and my wish to one day start my own charity.
Every single day, I just think, you know what.. what’s the point. But then I just think, these people, have made me feel like this, these people, their comments and their actions have made me feel so low that I’d rather be dead.
I try so hard to block the thoughts out, but its so hard with no support.
Some days my mental health is so bad that I just want to take myself to hospital because I feel so unsafe and scared. I just want to give up, but I know I can’t, I have things to do, and things to achieve, people to help etc.

I see the people who bullied me, and I just laugh to myself, that they’re living their lives normally not knowing what so ever what they put me through. And sometimes I wonder, if I did tell them.. what would their reaction be? 

Do you know what annoys me, how people who have been bullied don’t get the support they really need. I had support when I was under 18, but now, the mental health team keep turning me down for support.
I was receiving therapy once a week between 15-18, and I was so used to having that support, and it was so helpful, and then as soon as I turned 18 they started talking to me about leaving, and then when I left, I was offered no support at all, so it went from support once a week, talking to someone, to absolutely nothing.
I have support from my GP, she put me on the medication, she talks to me about once every 2 weeks, she’s been amazing through all of this, she’s never given up on me, even when I told her that she can’t help me, and wanted to walk out, she carried on.

My motivation to start my own charity is so big! And I just wish I knew how to go about it, I’ve been emailing round, but I can’t seem to find any answers. 

So if anyone has any ideas or advice please let me know!

I hope that you will support me on my journey to get my voice heard. Your support means absolutely everything!

Please follow me on twitter @Hidden_Beth
Like my facebook page:
Email me:

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Age Of Consent Laws - Children and Youth in History


In western law, the age of consent is the age at which an individual is treated as capable of consenting to sexual activity. Consequently, any one who has sex with an underage individual, regardless of the circumstances, is guilty of a crime. Narrowly concerned with sexual violence, and with girls, originally, since the 19th century the age of consent has occupied a central place in debates over the nature of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and been drawn into campaigns against prostitution and child marriage, struggles to achieve gender and sexual equality, and the response to teenage pregnancy. This module traces the shifting ways that the law has been defined, debated and deployed worldwide and from the Middle Ages to the present.

An age of consent statute first appeared in secular law in 1275 in England as part of the rape law. The statute, Westminster 1, made it a misdemeanor to "ravish" a "maiden within age," whether with or without her consent. The phrase "within age" was interpreted by jurist Sir Edward Coke as meaning the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years of age.
A 1576 law making it a felony to "unlawfully and carnally know and abuse any woman child under the age of 10 years" was generally interpreted as creating more severe punishments when girls were under 10 years old while retaining the lesser punishment for acts with 10- and 11-year-old girls. Jurist Sir Matthew Hale argued that the age of consent applied to 10- and 11-year-old girls, but most of England's North American colonies adopted the younger age. A small group of Italian and German states that introduced an age of consent in the 16th century also employed 12 years.

An underage girl did not have to physically struggle and resist to the limit of her capacity in order to convince a court of her lack of consent to a sexual act, as older females did; in other words, the age of consent made it easier to prosecute a man who sexually assaulted an underage girl. However, since the age of consent applied in all circumstances, not just in physical assaults, the law also made it impossible for an underage female to consent to sexual activity. There was one exception: a man's acts with his wife, to which rape law, and hence the age of consent, did not apply.

In trials, juries were often unwilling to simply enforce the law. Rather than focusing strictly on age, they made judgments about whether the appearance and behavior of a girl fit their notions of a child and a victim. It was not only that relying solely on age seemed arbitrary to them; at least until the end of the 19th century, age had limited salience in other aspects of daily life. Laws and regulations based on age were uncommon until the 19th century, and consequently so was possession of proof of age or even knowledge of a precise date of birth.

Near the end of the 18th century, other European nations began to enact age of consent laws. The broad context for that change was the emergence of an Enlightenment concept of childhood focused on development and growth. This notion cast children as more distinct in nature from adults than previously imagined, and as particularly vulnerable to harm in the years around puberty. The French Napoleonic code provided the legal context in 1791 when it established an age of consent of 11 years. The age of consent, which applied to boys as well as girls, was increased to 13 years in 1863.

Like France, many other countries, increased the age of consent to 13 in the 19th century. Nations, such as Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Swiss cantons, that adopted or mirrored the Napoleonic code likewise initially set the age of consent at 10-12 years and then raised it to between 13 and 16 years in the second half of the 19th century. In 1875, England raised the age to 13 years; an act of sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 13 was a felony. In the U.S., each state determined its own criminal law and age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. U.S. laws did not change in the wake of England's shift. Nor did Anglo-American law apply to boys.

Behind the inconsistency of these different laws was the lack of an obvious age to incorporate into law. Although scientists and physicians had established that menstruation and puberty occurred on average around age 14 in Europe at this time, different individuals experienced it at different ages -- a fluid situation at odds with the arbitrary line drawn by whatever age was incorporated into law.

At the end of 19th century, moral reformers drew the age of consent into campaigns against prostitution. Revelations of child prostitution were central to those campaigns, a situation that resulted, reformers argued, from men taking advantage of the innocence of girls just over the age of consent. W. T. Stead's series of articles entitled, "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon," published in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885, was the most sensational and influential of these exposés.

The outcry it provoked pushed British legislators to raise the age of consent to 16 years, and stirred reformers in the U.S, such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the British Empire, and Europe to push for similar legislation. By 1920, Anglo-American legislators had responded by increasing the age of consent to 16 years, and even as high as 18 years.

While those ages were well beyond the normal age of menstruation, proponents justified them on scientific grounds that psychological maturity came later than physiological maturity. They also argued that the age of consent should be aligned with other benchmarks of development, such as the age at which girls could enter into contracts and hold property rights, typically 21 years. Opponents remained focused on physiological maturity, however, and argued that girls in their teens were sufficiently developed not to need legal protection. Moreover, they argued, by late adolescence girls possessed sufficient understanding about how to use the law to blackmail unwary men.

Historians have argued that increasing the age of consent also gave the law a more pronounced regulatory dimension. In practice, these laws were often used to control the behavior of the working-class girls. Yet reformers at the time saw no distinction between protection and regulation: in making it a crime for girls to decide to have sexual intercourse outside marriage, the law protected them from themselves and from the immature understanding that led them to behaviors reformers considered immoral.

In addition to class, the intersection of race and age also gave the law a regulatory character. In India, for example, the prevalence of the custom of child marriage among Hindus led the British colonial authorities to apply the age of consent to married as well as unmarried girls, thereby creating a crime of marital rape that did not exist in British law. The 1860 Indian Penal Code set the age at 10 years; in 1891 the age of consent but not the age of marriage was raised to 12 years. As a result, the age of consent regulated the consummation of marriage, ensuring that it was delayed until an age when Indian girls were considered likely to have begun menstruating.

A furious debate preceded the enactment of the 1891 law, focused in large part on whether the law violated the commitment the British government had made in 1857 not to interfere in native cultures. That Indian law set the age lower than British law reflected ideas that non-white races "matured earlier," in part because of the environments in which they originated. In the U.S., those who opposed resetting the age of consent to 16 made similar arguments about African-Americans, Mexicans, and Italian immigrants. Australian legislators even claimed that white girls living in sub-tropical climates "ripened" into women earlier than those in Europe.

The behavior of underage girls gave support to both proponents and opponents of the increased age of consent. Increasingly living in cities and working in factories, offices and stores, working-class girls with a new freedom from the supervision of family members and neighbors cultivated a flamboyant, sexually expressive style that extended to consensual sexual activity, usually with men only a few years their elders. Their new freedom brought girls danger as well as pleasure: subordination at work and dependence on men for access to leisure, limited their agency and ability to consent, and sometimes exposed them to sexual violence. Girls involved in age of consent prosecutions came in roughly equal numbers from each of those groups.

In the 1930s, support for setting the age of consent at 16 years or older began to weaken. Characterized by growing economic, social, and cultural independence, girls in their teens assumed a place in western societies quite distinct from that of younger children. New concepts of adolescence and specifically of girlhood normalized sexual activity during the teenage years, at least within peer groups, as "sex play" necessary to achieve adult heterosexuality. Emboldened and influenced by such ideas, girls more often talked of being "in love" with the men charged with having sex with them, and expressed sexual desire. Prosecutors and juries increasingly refused to treat such cases as rape.

Legislators, however, did not reduce the legal age of consent. The resulting tension was reflected in slang, most notably the American term "jailbait," dating from the 1930s, that registered cultural recognition of teenage girls as sexually attractive, even sexually active, but legally unavailable. American legislators did amend laws to take account of the offender's age during the 1940s and 1950s as teen culture expanded and female adolescents exercised their sexual autonomy. During and after World War II, if both the male and female were underage (or between two and six years above the age of consent), the punishment was reduced.

By the 1970s, feminist rape law reform campaigns had helped to expand age of consent laws. Aiming to challenge stereotypes of female passivity and growing concern about male victimization, they made it clearer that the laws concerned all youth—male and female—and that the laws protected them from exploitation rather than ensuring their virginity. European nations in general did not follow suit. Only Britain, in 2003, revised its legislation, making an act committed by an individual under 18 with one under 16 a separate, lesser offense.

A more broadly adopted element of feminist rape law reform was the application of gender-
neutral language: instead of referring to "females" the law referred to any "person." Unchanged, however, was the nature of the act addressed. Age of consent laws applied only to heterosexual intercourse. The new language criminalized acts between underage boys and women, but not those between boys and men. Promoted as a means of formalizing equality between men and women, gender-neutral language won support as a means of protecting boys. The treatment of such cases, however, was not gender neutral and drew upon gender stereotypes. In practice, boys were imagined as sexual agents, not victims, and as sexual agents, the prevailing assumption was that they would not be harmed by sexual acts with adult women.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to apply the age of consent only to girls. The ruling found a new, "modern" basis for the law: the consequences of pregnancy for females. Although out of line with a broad shift toward formal legal equality between males and females, the decision fit the circumstances of the small number of cases still being prosecuted. And despite this ruling, gender-neutral laws were still enacted around the country.

This debate foreshadowed a new link between the law and teenage pregnancy in the 1990s. Conservatives seeking to control adolescent sexuality joined with welfare reform activists. They promoted claims that the enforcement of the age of consent could prevent teenage motherhood (and rising welfare costs) that resulted from girls' exploitation by adult men. Few cases actually fit that pattern, but campaigns to publicize and enforce the law on that basis were implemented in at least 10 states.

At the end of the 20th century, outside the U.S., age of consent laws were expanded to include same-sex acts, due in part to growing tolerance of homosexuality and desire to reach those at risk of AIDS. In the first half of the 20th century, all the European nations, other than Italy and Turkey, that had followed the Napoleonic code in treating heterosexual and homosexual acts alike had recriminalized homosexual acts, either establishing a total ban or an age of consent higher than that for heterosexual acts. In the last quarter of the century, arguments that boys developed later and needed to be older to appreciate the social consequences of homosexual acts began to fade.

European nations began establishing a uniform age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual acts in the 1970s. Under pressure from the European Commission on Human Rights, the former Soviet states and the United Kingdom were the last to revise their legislation at the beginning of the 21st century. In 2003, New South Wales became the final Australian state to adopt a uniform law. In that same year, a U.S. Supreme Court decision decriminalized consensual sodomy, opening the way for the invalidation of unequal laws, a process started in 2005. As of 2007, Canada, Cyprus, and the British territories of Gibraltar and Guernsey were the only western nations without a uniform age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual acts.

More than 800 years after the first recorded age of consent laws, the one constant is the lack of consistency. Laws around the world define the socially appropriate age of consent anywhere from 13 to 18. Some differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual acts while others do not. Some apply to young men as well as young women and others remained focused on the lives and actions of girls. And beyond the legislation lies the world of practice, an even more complex story.

How to Cite This Source

Stephen Robertson, "Age of Consent Laws," in Children and Youth in History, Item #230, (accessed May 9, 2013

Is Forgiveness Necessary? #childabuse #survivors @Together_WeHeal

Forgiveness. What an amazing word. What an honorable act. What an indescribable sensation when once we receive it and also too, when we dispense it.
Our good friend Webster defines “Forgive” as – To pardon an offense or offender. To grant pardon for or remission of an offense; To cease to feel resentment against. Synonyms include, absolve; excuse; exonerate; exculpate.
Also mixed in with the word “forgive” is “forgiveness”. Words associated with it are: Mercy; Charity; Compassion.
I’ve struggled a long time with these words. You see, when the very organization that is supposed to teach you the meanings behind these words refuses to protect you. Even goes so far as to take aim and target you as being a bad person. When, in fact, you are the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a minister. It becomes increasingly difficult to find any forgiveness for those who allowed it to happen, for those that covered it up, for those that protected the abuser instead of the innocent child, and especially the one who raped, molested and sexually assaulted you.
I give lectures and presentations to civic and religious groups, to parent organizations, even to small groups of couples wanting to know how to better protect their children from sexual predators. And you want to know the single most asked question I get? I don’t mean it’s asked a little more often than not, I’m telling you I get this question more than all other questions combined. I’m asked, “have you forgiven your abuser?”
At first, I have to admit, I didn’t really know how to respond. I was taken aback. Shocked actually. Of all the questions I expected, this was not one of them. Initially I deflected. Because in truth, I had not even given it consideration. I was so focused on keeping my abuser away from more children, so intent on preventing more children from going through what I did, and so preoccupied with helping support other survivors of CSA that it never entered my thought process. Until now.
Now I was forced to face a daunting challenge. You see, my dilemma is this. My spiritual background is Protestant. And within that Protestant faith was a teaching that we were to forgive as we are forgiven. So it says right in The Lords Prayer. On the flip side was my heart. Having been torn apart by a man who has molested, raped and sexually abused an untold number of little boys. How do I forgive that?
So I did something it took me a long time to do after having felt betrayed by the very God that my abuser claimed to represent. I spent an awful lot of time in prayer and study. I went to every doctrine of various faiths and religious texts I could find having to do with forgiveness. And time and time again I saw, forgive as you are forgiven. Jesus, Gandhi, no matter the reference, If you don’t forgive, how can you expect to be forgiven? We’re these folks right? Was I supposed to forgive this most heinous of crimes perpetrated against myself and all those other little boys?
In all the passages, texts, quotes from people of faith, when they spoke of forgiveness, they did so when addressing those who had faith, who held in their hearts a belief in repentance for transgressions. Even those that had done them wrong.
But is was while having a bible study with my fiancé Linda that we came across the scripture that opened my eyes. My spiritual eyes, and my heart.
In Matthew 6:14-15 it talks about forgiveness. And most of this chapter has to do with Jesus explaining to his followers how to do certain things. How to pray, fast, etc. And as we read and prayed we began to understand. Jesus was talking about Christians forgiving other Christians, not about forgiving the unrepentant.
So this led me to a question. Is it within my ability to forgive someone who does not have faith or who has no regret or repentance? This led me to an even deeper question from a trusted friend and man who has spent his entire adult life in study and prayer. He posed the following query, “Is a person without faith or repentance even capable of receiving my forgiveness?”
I was blown away.
Rather than paraphrasing, I will simply let him explain in his own scholarly, yet layman terms.
“Until someone has been first forgiven by God unto salvation through Christ we do not have the ability to forgive them. I will take it a step further, until a person has become forgiven by God unto salvation they are incapable of recieving human forgiveness. Only God can forgive a non Christian. That is not to say that we should not pray for their forgivness. By praying that the non Christian be forgiven by God helps us deal with the wrong done to us by that person and help’s God understand our need to forgive…Hope that is not too confusing, for most Christians do not understand that part of forgivness. Certainly, you may offer forgivness by a non Christian, but still until that person is forgiven by God for his orginal sin forgiveness can’t be recieved by the non christian.”
And this led me to an even greater insight. To those who said, you must forgive to be forgiven, if that were the case, it would mean there are stipulations to my faith. A “work or act” I must do. And any Protestant who knows their faith, knows we do not come to our faith through works or acts. It is by faith alone.
So not only am I not responsible for forgiving my abuser; until he is repentant, he is incapable of receiving human forgiveness for any transgressions.
That doesn’t mean we, or rather I, am recused from praying for the faith of this particular person. But at least now I have the honest belief that it’s not my job to forgive him. That’s between God and him. And honestly, I don’t believe someone capable of such things wants redemption. Not when he’s looked me in the eye, cried crocodile tears saying he didn’t do that anymore, only to find out he was molesting at least two boys when he told me that. So he’s a pathological liar, pedophile and God only knows what else.
Ultimately I believe that forgiveness, with regard to the abused, is the most individual of decisions. I believe there is more than one way to skin the “forgiveness” cat. For some, they find it helpful. For me, it’s not necessary. I have no need of it for my healing. And that’s what it’s all about. No matter which way a survivor goes, as long as they find healing and not vengeance or bitterness in it, it’s a positive.
The bottom line, my focus is on my recovery, healing and that of others that have been through what I have. I know now my calling is to do all I can to educate parents on how to better protect their children and help survivors heal. And I don’t need a burning bush or talking mule to figure that out!


Author: Together We Heal

David Pittman spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. There is a real need to change statute of limitation laws on child molestation and sexual abuse. We are here to help promote that change and provide a safe forum for victims of abuse to share, learn and heal. “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Please follow us on Twitter @Together_WeHeal

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

“Together We Heal” says…Thank You! Gracias! Vielen Dank! Dankie! Merci! @Together_WeHeal

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. In a short amount of time, our blog for “Together We Heal” has already had over 5,700 views from 75 countries. Let me say that again, 75 countries!! While to some these numbers may not mean a lot or even be as impressive as those who get 1K – 5K readers a day or week, to us they are AMAZING!
We’ve been blogging for 7 months and our first 2 we averaged about 250 per. Then from Dec-Feb we saw about 400-500 per. Then came March and April. We hit over 1,000 and then toppled 2,000 respectively. Already we are on a pace to hit Somewhere around 2,700!!! Please understand that I’m giving you this information for one reason and one reason only….to say THANK YOU for getting the message out and telling folks where they can come to find a safe forum for survivors of CSA, get free counseling if needed, learn how to begin the process of healing and not the least being, how to better protect our children from these sexual predators and expose their methods! We are only able to do any of these things because of YOU and how much you care. Accept my heartfelt and sincere gratitude for being a part of this movement to help.
And these numbers are also amazing because they tell us that what we are writing, what we are sharing, and what we are hoping to send out to help survivors of CSA to begin and continue their healing process; to help educate the public on matters of CSA; and how we can better protect our children has an audience that reaches around the globe!
It tells us that what we have to say is important to you and I want all of you to know just how much you are appreciated, respected and prayed for daily. As we move forward, day by day, we get more calls and emails asking for help. And it’s because you get the word out. You are letting survivors of CSA know they have a place to come that’s safe, that provides counseling and is here solely for the purpose of helping others.
If ever there are issues, questions or topics that you feel need covering, please don’t hesitate to call or email us and ask. Like I said, we are here to help, and while I try to stay on top of things, I know I don’t know it all…far from it. But I do know that we have amazing folks reading the blog who are compassionate, caring and want to help as well. So please tell us when there’s something we need to address in order to maintain a high level of knowledge, an empathetic and sympathetic understanding of your needs and most importantly…that you know we genuinely care about each and every one of you.
Whether you are a survivor, the loved one of someone whose endured CSA, or a concerned parent wanting to know what they can do to better ensure the safety of their child; we are here for you, all of you. As I said, I know I don’t have all the answers, but what we have in spades as an organization, is a group of people devoted and determined to do whatever they can to achieve all of the aforementioned goals.
That’s why we give out our emails, phone numbers, blog and twitter sites, and tell you about the other groups out there with the same ambition as ours. Those being; to guide survivors in the best way we can for each individual, and to do our damnedest to put an end to CSA.
So I will end I as began…
…thank you, thank you all so very much from the bottom of my heart!
David Pittman



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