My Spring Reading List!

After the heavier reading of Lent, I thought I'd like to continue some inspirational spiritual reading through the Easter season as well. 

Here's my book list!

Private and Pithy lessons from Scripture - Mother Angelica
Little Book of Life Lessons - Mother Angelica
Three to Get Married - Fulton Sheen
The Little Oratory
Diary Sister Faustina
Getting Past Perfect - Kate Wicker
The Words We Pray - Amy Welborn
Perfectly Yourself - Matthew Kelly 
Crossing the Threshold of Hope - Pope John Paul II

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Believing Victims, Spotting a Predator

Into the Wild
  Dave Sutherland, Into The World, via Flickr, licensed cc. 

On a chilly March evening about 15 years ago, I very reluctantly attended a Virtus Training class provided by my parish church and mandated by my diocese for any adults that wished to work with, teach, or coach children. At the time, I felt that the laity was being punished for the crimes of the clergy when it came to the Catholic Church Sex Scandal.  But by the end of the evening, I felt that it had been time well spent. I learned how a predator thought, and what a predator might be looking for. It was a worthwhile program. 

Eventually, I became certified and submitted to the background check and the fingerprinting. I recommend that all the parents in the diocese get Virtus trained to educate themselves and then take advantage of the continuing education that is also provided. 

What really cemented the training in my mind though was applying the things I learned to a situation in my own life. As I sat there and learned all the signs of predatory behavior, I realized that the elder abuse that my parents had experienced at the hands of my first cousin was very similar to the stages a child sex offender goes through. 

  • They were isolated from family and friends. In my parents' case,  it was mainly by geography which made them a perfect target.
  • The outsider became enmeshed into their daily lives and became a "part of the family." 
  • The outsider knew how to keep the victims away from prying eyes and protective family members - my sister and me. 
  • The outsider starts talking trash about family members, (they don't love you like I do, they can't do for you like I do, etc.)
  • The outsider becomes the whole world to the victim. 

The more I learned, the more these red flags jumped out at me! There had been classic signs. I had missed them because I didn't know what to look for. Since I took the class all those years ago, and kept up with the online courses, the red flags continue to pop up in everyday life. It's not that I'm surrounded by abusers necessarily, but that I'm more aware of the possibility. 

What I know now is a predator, is a predator, is a predator - the target and the goal might be different but the techniques were much the same. In my case, it was my first cousin. 

For Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, it was Michael Jackson. 

Fast forward to this past week and the HBO Documentary called Leaving Neverland. I watched both parts - twice. And then I watched Oprah Winfrey's interview. 

As I watched the interviews of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, a lot of that same pattern appeared. 

1. A person from outside of the families of these men suddenly became enmeshed with them. In this case, that person was Michael Jackson.

2. The outsider became privy to the family business, medical issues, and money matters. Michael Jackson knew these family were working class and he used his power and position to lure the children with promises of furthering their career. He lured the parents with vacations and financial help.

3. A predator isolates the victim from the family. Whether on tour or on the Neverland Ranch, this was easily done to these two children. 

4. The predator becomes the whole world to the victim. Michael Jackson became a friend, protector, lover and teacher to these children and cemented that by isolating them from their parents. 

 I can't imagine any mother who has had Virtus Training allowing a grown man to be alone with her child in his bedroom in her house!  It just wouldn't happen. But these mom's hadn't been trained at all.  At that time in the early 80s and 90s, none of us had.   

But there's another parallel. As Catholics we've been aware of the priest sex scandal since 2002. It reared it's head again last year.  Why didn't parents realize what their parish priests were doing with their kids? Why didn't Mrs. Robson and Mrs. Safechuck know what Michael Jackson was doing to their son's? 

Because, as Maureen Dowd said last week, "Celebrity supersedes criminality. How can you see clearly when you’re looking into the sun? How can an icon be a con?"

So many Catholic families were fooled by their local parish celebrity. It's not a stretch to see how a stage mom could be fooled by the biggest star on earth at that time. 

And that's why I believe these men. Their stories were gripping, compelling, sad, and repulsive. They aren't making any money from the documentary and probably won't prevail in court either. From what I can see on Twitter, they're not likely to win over any fans that are deeply devoted to the music and memory of MJ. They will get a lot of jeers and hate. Yet they are telling their textbook, predatory abuse 101, story to the world for healing and not for personal gain. Time will tell, but I think this is going to make the change Michael sang about all of those years ago. And that's a good thing. 

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  1. I've been involved with kids at church for about 20 years and some sort of child protection training has always been a part of it. I find it interesting how it has changed. First, it was just a few minutes during a day-long inservice for CCD teachers, and you had to sign a paper saying you didn't abuse kids. When my now high school freshman started PK-4 at our parish school, the principal used to do training at the first parent's club meeting--the one that "everyone" attended, and she'd pass around a roll sheet. If your name wasn't on that sheet you couldn't come on field trips or help at events at school. The main thing I remember her talking about was side hugs rather than frontal hugs. Then more rules came down and while they didn't require safe environment for periodic contact such as field trips or class parties, anyone with regular or unsupervised contact had to attend a class, and they were offered up and down the street several times a week at the beginning of the school year. YOu had to register ahead of time, sign in and order a background check. This has to be repeated every three year. Starting this year, those who are re-training (as opposed to doing the initial training) are allowed to do it online. I've seen the trainings move from "don't do this or that" (like I really didn't know it was improper to touch a child's genitals) to "how to recognize and report". However, as someone who will need to re-take this training next year, I'm glad they are trying to make it less onerous. I think the most important take-away from it all is that sexual abuse of minors is not tolerated and if anyone tries to sweep it under the run, yell louder.

  2. Hey good to see you again RAnn. Yeah, it's been an evolution for sure. Like I said, i our diocese it ws always on trying to spot the potential abuser, but there were also rules put in place to keep everyone safe. The Deacon even kept the door open when I went to see him when my mother was dying! That was strange, but in this day and age, I guess necessary!


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