Protecting Girls from Sexual Predators by Being Aware and Making Informed, Intelligent Decisions (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Sexual predators come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, the all seem to have the same thing in common – committing sexual offenses against others in efforts to show power, control, and domination, and to make themselves feel good while hurting their victims. Another very sad thing about those who commit sexual offenses against others is that they typically see no wrong in their actions. In efforts to normalize their thoughts and actions, they often appear to be in denial, externally blaming others – including their targets – rather than admitting their actions and taking responsibility for them. They often go to whatever lengths necessary to blame their victims, cover up their offenses, and manipulate others into believing their falsehoods.

In this article, I will discuss the manner in which girls can and do become sexual targets. Boys, men, and women may also be targets of sexual predators, and this article does not minimize their experience, but is to solely focus on how society often fails to protect many of its most vulnerable and innocent members.  Perhaps if parents, educators, and/or others in our society are more aware and informed about the manner in which girls are targeted, more girls will be protected from sexually traumatizing situations that they should never experience.

Research has shown that most individuals who are sexually abused or assaulted are those who are known by their targets. Often, those who target them are family members or “trusted” pillars of the community, including those in positions of great wealth, power, influence, and/or authority. Men (and women) who sexually abuse and/or assault girls are those who believe that their thoughts and actions are correct. Their perspectives and behaviors, however, are pathological, including their actions of grooming their targets throughout time, potentially gaining the trust and friendship of the target’s parents or family, and taking whatever measures possible to see that their inappropriate interactions with their targets are secret, silenced, overlooked, and/or otherwise minimized.

Sadly, many sexual offenders are never caught. Many of these highly esteemed pillars of the community are so powerful and influential – or have such strong ties with a connective network of powerful and influential people who believe and protect them – that they continue their inappropriate actions and sexual offenses throughout their lives, always getting away with them. What is to be done for girls to protect themselves from such people? Nothing? If the girls or their families went to police, they would be laughed at and humiliated out of the police station due to the infiltration into police networks by these powerful and influential people. If the girls and their families publicly identified such people, they risk being financially, socially, and professionally ruined by such people and their large network of supporters with whom they are connected.

Must victims of their sexual offenses continue to suffer in silence? No. It is up to survivors to speak out because, in so doing, the offenders are not protected. The offenders count on tactics of fear, intimidation, and ruination to silence and destroy their victims and their victims’ reputations. Being silent only protects the offenders. By speaking out about offenders, society is informed and becomes more aware of those in their communities – and perhaps, even in their own families – who are so powerful that they get away with their sexual misconduct and offenses. In these ways, at least people are informed, whether or not they believe the truth and heed the warnings about the offenders’ harmful and pathological behaviors.

One way that sexual predators groom and prey upon girls is by sizing up their parents and/or families. If those targeting girls judge that the girls’ parents are unaware, uncaring, weak, or oblivious in any way, then their daughters are prime targets for grooming by sex offenders. Parents and/or other caregivers must be loving and caring toward their daughters, having created an atmosphere in which open and honest trust is shared, in order that these girls feel safe enough to be open with them about any inappropriate actions or offenses performed against them.

Next, parents must not be too free – and should be more guarded – about with whom their daughters spend time and what activities they do. A safe environment in which everyone has passed background checks and drug tests are among the most ideal places for parents to believe their girls are safe, however people must recognize that those with enough money and power who are involved in these environments may have had their offenses undocumented. People must not always trust that the authority, stature, and appearances of those in power are necessarily honest, honorable, and respectable.

Particularly in regard to young girls, people should be aware and informed about those with whom they have interaction and contact. Outside of a girl’s family, there are those in church, at school, and at other community events and even regular family outings, such as to the local grocery store, gas station, or other business, who may target her. People, particularly men, who have regular contact and/or interaction with a girl, long enough to speak with her in a way that gains her trust in some way are those who could be suspected of grooming a girl in order to sexually harm her. Should such interactions be overlooked and/or not perceived, then such grooming will continue and likely escalate. The grooming can escalate to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Then, a host of excuses, cover-ups, and denials begin, as well as a discrediting of the victim.

Men who hold powerful positions, and who are looked to as trusted community members, are sometimes those who commit sexual harassment and/or misconduct against girls.  Some of these men may include priests of parishes that have churches, schools, and children’s activities, as well as millionaire or billionaire members of those parishes who lead and/or participate in church and/or community activities involving children. Those men who are so wealthy, powerful, influential, “trusted,” and “esteemed” in their communities and greater regional areas who perform sexual misconduct against girls have already duped everyone before a girl realizes what has happened, before her family can support and/or defend her (if at all), and before the girl’s healing process begins (if at all). Because these men are unwilling and/or unable to be responsible and accountable for their actions, they deny them and do whatever possible to cover them up, discredit their victims, and continue to victimize others.

The small Catholic parish in my small hometown of Gowanda in Western New York State is one such place of which I am aware that several people have had these experiences throughout a period of decades. To my knowledge, no one has ever officially reported the instances of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault that have occurred there and/or as a result of powerful people who are parishioners there. Many of those who have committed such offenses remain leaders and active members of this parish. A current priest there from Salamanca, New York threatened one former parishioner with Mafia action due to her knowledge of his sexual harassment and pedophilia toward girls. The survivors who have left the parish are aware that the shear wealth and power of those people would extremely outweigh anything they could ever say or do in any futile attempts to obtain justice. In effect, obtaining justice is impossible, and the lies, cover-ups, and misconduct will likely continue far into the future since those particular people are tied to the area.

Therefore, people must always be aware of and informed about others. Sometimes, those who dress well, have money and power, and/or be in positions that are spiritually-supportive of others are the very people who should not be trusted. This is further correct, especially if such men have free and open access to children, and even if they can pass every background check. Just because a “trusted” and “esteemed” man can pass a background check does not mean he does not have a sexualized pathology. People must be active in guarding and protecting children, even in places typically considered safe, such as churches. People must be aware that appearances are not always what they may seem, in order to be activists in adequately protecting children.

This is also not to say that all men who are involved in children’s activities are sexual predators. Certainly not. I recognize that there are many more men of honor and respectable character in our society than those who are not. Thank goodness for that! It is simply that, in a world where children have no rights and are often manipulated, controlled, objectified, abused, and/or sexualized, those vested with their care must be more vigilant and effective in our protection of them. Even those who do all they can and who have the best intentions toward protecting children may be unable to protect them. However, we must always do whatever possible to achieve that end.

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An Amazing Day at the Circus! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

Yesterday, my son and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia!  What an absolutely fabulous and fun time we had! The circus performance was so much more and better than I ever imagined it would be!  Oh my gosh!  I have never seen any performance quite as amazing and incredible as that which I saw yesterday at the circus!  I recommend to anyone who can go, to see these wonderful and astounding performances.

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

At the circus, my son and I sat in the third row, right up in front. I got great tickets from StubHub.com for $25 each only a couple of days before the show. It was incredible to save about $40 on the ticket prices, and still get such fantastic seats! I still can’t believe it!  The money I saved was then spent on food and souvenirs. Thank you, StubHub!

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

There were so many performances and shows that my son and I enjoyed seeing at the circus. Alexander Lacey – the lion tamer – put on a great show with several lions and tigers doing many tricks.  We had prime seats to watch as he rubbed a lion’s tummy, and kissed lions and tigers. He also rode through the arena in a fancy, motorized circus car with a leopard that he hugged and kissed!

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

We watched as Joseph Frisco, III, and Mario Bovio superbly-handled up to six elephants at a time. There was one portion of the show in which four elephants stood up on their hind legs, with most of them placing their front feet on the backs of the other elephants. It was really incredible to see!

Some of the Many Circus Performers

Some of the Many Circus Performers

We saw the Tuniziani Troupe perform on the flying trapeze, with at least one performer doing a triple somersault while flying through the air. There were the men of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe whose acrobatics included jumping through hoops that were up to ten feet off of the floor. The women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe skillfully spun and twirled diabolos in the air in synchrony. And, the men and women together formed a giant peacock while either riding and/or standing on top of two bicycles and each other while on the bicycles.  It was pretty neat!

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

The Torres Family, who ride motorcycles while inside a giant steel ball, left my son speechless and myself both amazed and concerned for their safety. Beginning with a group of four motorcyclists, they steadily increased their number up to eight during their final performance.  All of the motorcyclists rode in circular patterns inside the steel ball, while not having any collisions!  Their performances amount to a world record achieved every day!

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Tchalabaev Cossack Troupe gave astounding performances by riding their horses. These riders did not just “ride” horses by sitting on them, but also stood atop of them, sometimes standing with one foot on each of two horses galloping next to each other. There were also performances of men in the group who hung off the horses in what was called the “dead-man rag,” in which it appeared that the horses would nearly kick them. Other performers (two at a time) also climbed over and under a horse while it was galloping. They also performed a five-person pyramid while the horses were at a gallop. It was all pretty amazing!

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

There were performances of clowns, dancers, dogs, goats, and the motorcycle highwire – which was almost directly above us, with no nets – that were also wonder-inducing. My son was amazed to watch a dog jump into a man’s arms from 16 feet off of the floor. Hans and Mariya Klose, and Vicki Zsilak and Alex Petrov, respectively, did a great job with the dogs and goats. The clowns were so funny, too, and kept us laughing. The dancers added even more vigor and vitality to the overall show.  The performances of the goats, dogs, and miniature ponies were great, too.

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

The folks on the motorcycle highwire, riding back and forth, and even spinning around the highwire, were incredible to watch. Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos, the Ringmaster and his sidekick, were the gel that pulled it all together in this cool show. To top it all off, the Ringling Brothers Band played live music during the circus performances!

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

If I might have changed one thing in the circus, it would be for the elephant that wore the mammoth suit to have it removed. Elephants are such wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures, and to see an elephant dressed up in a full-body costume was distressing. Certainly, the animal was alright and was not being hurt, however it leaves me to wonder how much stress it really creates in this creature.

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

The one and only previous time that I had ever been to a circus was a Barnum & Bailey event sponsored by the Shriner’s. I went with my brother and other children on school buses when I was seven-years-old.  I think I remember seeing some elephants, but we were seated so highly up in Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium – and because the adult chaperones with us showed absolutely no eagerness or excitement at all – I don’t remember much of it except getting separated from the group when we left.  Thankfully, I was able to flag down a friendly policewoman who was directing traffic, and she took my brother and I to our school bus. That is the most I remember about going to a circus as a child – being left behind and having to step up to fend for my brother and myself amidst a sea of people. I expect that was the reason I never got to go see the circus again as a child – due to the careless “supervision” I experienced.

Performers at the Circus

Performers at the Circus

So, one can imagine what a wonderful treat it was to take my son and watch such an incredible and breath-taking circus!  Anyone who can go to and enjoy seeing the circus should do so in order to enjoy all of the wonderful and astounding performances that are in store!  Thank you to Nicole and Alana Feld for producing such a wonderful show!

This Valentine’s Day, Practice Love and Understanding (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Water Heart Design (from www.newevolutiondesigns.com, February 14, 2015)

Water Heart Design (from http://www.newevolutiondesigns.com, February 14, 2015)

It is St. Valentine’s Day, a day for love and romance, especially as reflected in our culture and history. Valentine’s Day is a day that is important for couples, though it is also important for everyone. On Valentine’s Day, everyone can show a little more love, respect, appreciation, and understanding toward each other.

I’ve already heard the national news today of a plot to kill people in a mall in Canada that was thwarted. Later today, I heard about a cartoonist in Denmark who was killed – an artist who apparently depicted Mohammed in a negative manner. There are also likely so many more countless tragedies, hate crimes, and killings that have occurred around the world.

Today – as every day – however, should be a day for spreading love, kindness, compassion, and understanding. Do not be the person who is ugly toward or who hurts others. Take the opportunity to do an act of kindness for another.

For those who are unable or unwilling to practice loving kindness and understanding, my heart and prayers go out to you. I understand that, sometimes, life experiences may make it more difficult to love, but it should not be an excuse to avoid doing so.

On this day of all days, we must open our hearts and practice loving kindness and forgiveness. Of course, that does not mean that we should fall victim to being hurt for doing so, however setting a good, positive example may be all a person needs for his or her spirit to be uplifted, even for one day.

How will you practice love, kindness, and understanding toward others today?

Winter Fun (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

Me after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

Recently, my son and I enjoyed some winter fun!  It was a welcome change to get away from the regular routine, even for one day.  We enjoyed a discounted group rate by snowboarding in North Carolina, and camped overnight in the Georgia mountains.

My Son after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

My Son after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

As a veteran and experienced skier, I was surprised to find that snowboarding was not as easy as I thought it would be.  You don’t know unless you try, of course, but I think I’ll stick with skiing.

This was the first time in nine years that I had hit the slopes, and my son’s very first time.  It was a great experience, and I hope we can go again…sometime sooner than nine years from now.

Challenges in Mental Health Care: The Sickness v. Wellness Perspective (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Mental health care is a challenging, but rewarding field.  There are many positive sides of mental health care, and also areas that need improvement.  One of the biggest rewards of mental health care is observing and experiencing progress, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients.  Healing, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients in mental health settings requires patience, understanding, respect, and sensitivity.  Agency and organizational stability is also needed for clients in order that they receive optimal care.  While each agency and/or organization has its own culture, a culture in which workers live in fear of becoming a statistic in extremely high turnover is unhealthy in itself.

As an individual working toward licensure in the mental health profession, I am one whose perspective is from a position of wellness.  First and foremost, one must view a person as a person.  To perceive and treat a person with respect, kindness, nonjudgment, and impartiality are requirements in supporting and empowering the wellness, healing, and recovery of clients.  In the counseling profession, one based on a view of wellness in people, there exists a positive and supportive hope for the overall optimal health of the individual.

This view is different from many other mental health professions in which the general view of the client is one of sickness.  Certainly, approaching an individual with a perspective of what can be improved is helpful, and for insurance purposes involving payment for services rendered, a diagnosis of the client is required, however it is my perspective that viewing the client from a wellness standpoint is much more healthy for all involved rather than judging a person as being sick.

Those who view and describe an individual as a “sick person” have already negatively judged him or her.  They have not viewed the person as a person, but as an “ill person.”  Such a perspective held by such individuals causes them to treat the client differently, as one who needs more and more treatment, more and more medication, more and more confinement.  In these situations, the positive view of wellness is gone, and is replaced by a judgment that the “sick person” is unable to become well.

While clients have challenges to achieving and maintaining wellness, it becomes even more of a challenge when many in the mental health field view clients as sick, and only they as the professionals who hold those views have the power and expertise to make them well – or they have already judged that they will never become well.  A professional who approaches a client from a perspective of wellness (a perspective that is in the minority), therefore, faces even more challenges, not only for themselves but also for their clients when others view them as sick and unable to become well.  A person is still a person, regardless of their diagnosis or disorder.  A person is still a person, and has the capability of becoming well.  A hopeful perspective toward client wellness must exist in the mental health profession – rather than client sickness – in order that clients are supported and empowered to experience that wellness.

A further challenge in agencies and/or organizations in which a “sickness” perspective prevails is that experienced clinicians fall into the trap of believing that their views and judgments about clients are the best – that they are the experts.  Certainly, the experience of a veteran clinician is extremely valuable in treating clients, however experienced clinicians who believe that only their views, judgments, and culture of sickness are the most helpful approaches create a potentially dangerous situations for their clients.  Clinicians of all levels of experience must be open-minded to considering and perceiving different views – including those from a wellness perspective – so that their clients receive optimal care and so that they profession, itself, can grow and develop in a healthy way.

Clinicians who view clients from a perspective of illness and negative judgment place their clients at risk for further illness.  Clinicians who are set in their ways of expertise toward mental health treatment, and who are unable to be open-minded toward viewing different perspectives regarding it have already erected walls around themselves that are harmful for themselves, their clients, the culture of their agency/organization, and the field of mental health.

What clinicians must always place as a primary priority is that people are people.  As such, people should be treated with dignity, understanding, kindness, respect, and sensitivity.  If a perspective of client wellness is lacking or absent, clients will likely experience a more difficult road to recovery and may not achieve wellness.  What is healthier – being an “expert” clinician whose views of client illness cause him or her to be closed to considering a client’s optimal recovery, or being a clinician who treats a person as a person, and who applies a wellness perspective that supports rather than negatively judges the client?  You be the judge.