Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: abuse

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    How You Can Help End Child Trafficking

    Did you know...?

    • Pedophiles and traffickers can message your children through YouTube.
    • Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in big cities. It happens in every zip code.
    • Boys are trafficked, too.
    • Traffickers can be doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
    • Foster care children, immigrants and refugees are at greatest risk for becoming victims.
    • Your child has already been targeted by a human trafficker.
    • Many children and teens are trafficked in plain sight. 

    (Source: Military Moms Blog, October 2019)

    January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Jerry Redman, executive director of Street Grace Tennessee, wants everyone to know the definition of human trafficking, the signs to look for and what you should do if you suspect someone is being trafficked.

    “So many people think this doesn’t happen in their backyard, or that its presence in a community is a result of the interstate system,” says Redman. “Neither of these statements are true. Whether you live in a town of 50,000 or in the largest city in America, many people have this false sense of security which actually makes everyone more vulnerable.”

    WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

    Human trafficking, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, is the use of force, fraud or coercion to commercially exploit someone. It is a crime of connection or a crime of convenience. In other words, if a person is looking to sell a person, they need access to that person to groom them. It is easier to groom someone they can already access. In fact, 41% of trafficked children are trafficked by a family member. Girls are targeted more than boys, but boys, (especially young boys) are also targeted.

    “Many people are under the assumption that it is mostly runaway and homeless youth who are at risk for being trafficked. That is a myth,” Redman says. “I can think of two stories of women being trafficked in plain sight that I believe drive home the point that we all need to be very aware of what is happening around us - even in our own home.

    “A young woman who lived in a solidly upper middle class situation was trafficked by someone with a connection to her family. She was in school and not deprived in any way. She lived with her parents in a very caring environment. No one would have ever guessed that she was being trafficked.”

    Theresa L. Flores tells her story in The Slave Across the Street. At 16, she was literally trafficked out of her own home by classmates and was too ashamed and scared to tell anyone that it was going on. 

    WHAT YOU CAN DO...

    If you want to help put an end to human trafficking, here are some things you should look for:

    • Does someone appear to be under the control of someone else?
    • Is the person who appears to be in control doing all the talking?
    • Is the suspected trafficking victim dressed appropriately?
    • Has the person looked up once?
    • Has the person spoken?

    “These are signs that all of us should be aware of,” Redman says. “It’s also important to know that sometimes victims will come straight out and tell you they are being trafficked. If that happens, your job is to remain calm, believe them and call the police. Some people are hesitant, worried about being wrong. Authorities will tell you: It is better to be wrong than to not report. Additionally, in most states, adults are mandated reporters of any type of suspected child abuse.

    “If the person you suspect is being trafficked is an adult, you can still call the police. Ultimately, the person will have to be the one to make the decision about their next steps, but you can tell them there are resources and you can give them the national hotline number - 888-373-7888.”

    In the fight to eradicate human trafficking, authorities are pursuing traffickers in creative ways, including technological partnerships. For example, when someone solicits sex online from someone they believe to be a child, the solicitor receives a message saying, “This is not a real child. You are now on our radar and your information has been turned over to the authorities. Additionally, the person is sent another email saying, “We know you have a problem and here is information about where to seek help.” 

    However, the biggest help in this fight actually comes from everyday people - observant and informed citizens who know the definition and the signs of human trafficking.

    “Many states across the country are partnering with national authorities to put more stringent policies in place,” Redman says. “In fact, Tennessee, Montana, Nevada, Georgia and Louisiana received the highest scores from Shared Hope for their work to end human trafficking. With all of the work that has happened over the last 20 years, I believe we are actually in a position to see human trafficking either eradicated or close to that in this century. But, it will take all of us working together to make that happen.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 25, 2020.

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    6 Ways to Prevent Underage Drinking

    Stop and consider the potential negative consequences of underage drinking. Is it really worth the price your teen might pay, either immediately or in the future? In reality, poor choices in high school and college can absolutely impact a young person’s future in powerful ways. 

    Underage drinking is associated with a number of negative consequences such as: using drugs, getting bad grades, poor health, engaging in risky sexual behavior, making bad decisions and even suffering injury or death. Talk often with your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Making your expectations known today may cause them to think twice about taking a drink tomorrow. 

    Check out these stats on underage drinking from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2016 study and the The Centers for Disease Control.

    • 7.3 million young people under the age of 21 drank in the last month. 
    • 30% of high school students drank in the last 30 days.
    • 14% binge drank in the last 30 days.
    • 6% drove after drinking alcohol, and 17% rode with someone who had been drinking in the last 30 days.
    • 61.5% of high school seniors and 23% of 8th graders had tried alcohol at some point. 
    • More than 4,300 kids die from alcohol-related incidents each year.
    • Approximately 119,000 people under 21 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for alcohol-related injuries annually.

    Underage drinking is also associated with unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, and physical and sexual assault.

    Here are some factors that may increase the risk that a teen will use alcohol.

    • Significant social transitions such as graduating to middle or high school;
    • Getting a driver’s license;
    • A history of social and emotional problems;
    • Depression and other serious emotional problems;
    • A family history of alcoholism; and
    • Contact with peers involved in troubling activities.

    Here are 6 ways you can prevent underage drinking:

    1. Stay actively involved in your children’s lives.
    2. Know where your children are and what they are doing. Make knowing their friends a priority.
    3. Set and enforce clear standards, including standards about alcohol use.
    4. Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, do not operate or allow others to operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol.
    5. Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem. If you keep alcohol in your home, do not make it easily accessible to others.
    6. Don’t allow underage drinking in your home or provide alcohol for anyone who is under legal drinking age.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 28, 2018.

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    Hazing, Bullying or Abuse?

    Have you heard about the Sayreville, New Jersey high school football team? The school superintendent suspended their entire season after learning of hazing incidents in the team locker room. Seven teens were arrested and charged with participating in hazing rituals that allegedly included raping freshman players.

    What is at stake here? 

    Considering each teen's future, what's the potential lasting impact of this type of behavior? Some will say, “Boys will be boys, what’s the big deal?” Others will say this isn’t just hazing, but outright abuse.

    After the season’s cancellation, many parents complained that this was hurting their child’s potential scholarship opportunities, that it was unfair to punish the entire team for the actions of a few, and that perhaps the superintendent’s reaction was too harsh.

    What About Accountability?

    The alleged assault took place in the locker room with the entire team present. If this is the case, who should we hold accountable - actual participants, silent witnesses, or both?

    You might remember a 2012 incident in Steubenville, Ohio involving two stellar athletes on the high school football team. Both were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and sentenced to time behind bars. As in the Sayreville incident, witnesses did nothing to stop the rape.

    When the victim’s parents pressed charges, her family received threats and statements were made such as, “She was asking for it.” One of the boys pleaded with the victim not to press charges because it would ruin his football career.

    People literally spend millions of dollars on anti-bullying and abuse prevention campaigns targeting teens. They even tell young people this behavior is unacceptable and if you see something, say something.

    Unfortunately, Sayreville and Steubenville are not the only two places in the country where incidents like this have taken place, and the parents’ response to these situations is troubling. They seemed more concerned about the football season than the potential lifelong impact of this situation for everyone involved. Some might argue that there has been a cultural departure from having an ethical sense of right and wrong.

    Choices Have Consequences

    One could understand teens complaining about the punishment being too harsh because the judgment/decision-making part of their brain doesn't fully develop until the mid-20s. It's more difficult to understand, however, parents who don’t see the need to hold their children accountable. If your teen had held down and raped someone as part of a football team initiation, what would you want to happen?

    Kudos to the teens brave enough to say something! Clearly, we can talk with and help teens understand that stopping someone from taking advantage of another person is not “ratting them out.” It is the right thing to do.

    Teaching teens about sexual assault and what to do if they witness someone taking advantage of another person is absolutely vital. Lives are much different as a result of the Sayreville and Steubenville situations, and others. Parents cannot sit back and believe that this is all just part of growing up. There's just too much at stake for our young people.

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    The Power of a Parent's Words

    Plenty of parents have been at their wits’ end when words rolled off their tongue that they later wished had remained unspoken. In fact, at some point you've probably even told yourself, “You’re an idiot,” or “How stupid can you be?” Have you ever thought about how impactful your words really are?

    “Our words create our world,” says Dr. Justin Coulson, father of six and best-selling author of 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know and 9 Ways to a Resilient Child.

    “Whatever direction your words lead, your mind and body will follow. We believe what we tell ourselves. Language is powerful. Words don’t just affect us and the way we see ourselves. They affect the way we see our children.”

    When Coulson asked a frustrated mother to describe her teenage daughter, the mother said things like, “She’s disrespectful, She’s wasteful. She treats our house like a hotel.” But when Coulson asked about her daughter’s strengths, the mom talked about how caring and generous her daughter was and the fact that she was a great sister. It was almost like she was describing two different people.

    “The language we use about one another, and towards each other, impacts how we see one another,” Coulson shares. Coulson suggests that sometimes we say things in a way that is not helpful and may possibly be harmful. 

    Here are some phrases Coulson encourages parents not to use, along with better ways to express the same sentiment:

    • Don’t say: “Calm down.” Say: “You are so upset.” Telling someone to calm down actually has the opposite effect. It’s dismissive and it denies emotions. Instead, focus on labeling the emotion. If you can name it, you can tame it.

    • Don’t say: “You’re so clever.” Ask: “How did you feel when…” Research indicates that praise leads to inferences of low ability. The best thing you can do is turn it back on the person/child. For instance, you could say, “Hey, you seem really happy with that outcome. Tell me what you did to get it.”

    • Don’t say: “Ugh, you’re just like your mother.” Say: “Wow, this is really challenging for you.” Avoid comparisons. Highlight what you are observing. Maybe you could say, “In these situations, you seem to struggle with…” Then offer to help.

    • Don’t say: “Because I said so.” Instead, say: “Let me tell you why this matters.” When people have a rationale for the requests we are making they are far more likely to be compliant.

    • Don’t say: “I was lousy at that.” Perhaps you could offer this:  “It’s amazing what we can do when we try.” We can promote a growth mindset (Carol Dweck has research on this) by highlighting what happens when we have a go at it, put some effort into it and work hard at something. Can’t yet doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t ever.

    • Don’t say: “Don’t be so stupid.” Say nothing. Simply pause and walk away. We don’t motivate others by making them feel lousy about themselves. If they are doing something stupid, ask them to stop. Stupid to us may not seem stupid to them. Be curious, not cranky. There is always a reason for challenging behavior.

    “Saying horrible things to others is every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse,” according to Coulson. “It affects cognitive function. Things will come out of our mouths that will hurt. The trick is to say fewer of those things and to build our children up.”

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    10 Signs of Teen Dating Violence

    If you have teens in your life, this topic is worth your time and attention.

    In a healthy dating relationship skills class for teens, the facilitator asked the participants what they do when they get angry at their boyfriend or girlfriend. One young man spoke up and said, “I just choke her.”

    Sadly, violence is a reality in many teen dating relationships.

    According to a study commissioned by Liz Claiborne and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2008:

    • 1 in 3 teenagers knows a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner;

    • 62 percent of tweens (age 11-14) who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.) by a boyfriend or girlfriend;

    • Only half of tweens claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship;

    • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up; and

    • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

    National Center for Victims of Crime studies indicate that teen dating violence runs across race, gender and socioeconomic lines. Males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways. Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick. Boys injure girls more severely and frequently.

    A comparison of intimate partner violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at higher risk in intimate partner abuse.

    Is your teen at risk? 

    Does he or she know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? Would you recognize the symptoms? Many parents say they don't know the warning signs of teen dating violence.

    If you are wondering whether or not your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, here are some warning signs from the Break the Cycle website:

    • She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.

    • Your teen loses interest in activities she used to enjoy.

    • She stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.

    • When your daughter and her boyfriend are together, he calls her names and puts her down in front of other people.

    • He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially other guys.

    • A young man thinks or tells your daughter that you (her parents) don’t like him.

    • He controls her behavior, checks up on her constantly, calls and pages her, demanding to know who she has been with.

    • She casually mentions his violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.

    • You see him violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects.

    • She often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don’t make sense.

    Teens need to understand that hitting a girlfriend or boyfriend is a crime. In the vast majority of teen dating violence, the female is the victim. However, this conversation shouldn't only take place with female teens. This is an important conversation for parents to have with their sons and daughters.

    A number of excellent resources are available to help you discuss dating violence together, including breakthecycle.org. The site has a parent’s guide for talking to your teen, statistics, warning signs and additional resources. 

    Being aware of the warning signs of violence and taking action can prevent the wrong types of relationships from happening. It can also end the abuse cycle for teens who are in the midst of it.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    5 Ways You Can Protect Children from Sexual Abuse

    What percentage of childhood sexual abuse victims know their abuser? Where might you find someone who sexually abuses children? What percentage of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse? What percentage of child sexual abuse reports by children are fabricated?

    Unfortunately, most people don't want to spend time thinking about this topic. But for the sake of children, it requires your attention. About 1 in 10 children will experience sexually abuse before turning 18.

    It might surprise you to to learn that about 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser.

    Perhaps you've been led to believe that child sexual abusers look like shady characters. If so, think again. According to Darkness to Light, a website devoted to ending child sexual abuse, those who molest children usually look and (mostly) act just like everyone else. 

    You can find people who sexually abuse children in families, schools, churches, recreation centers, youth sports leagues and any other place children gather.

    And it is important to realize that abusers can be and often are other children, although most adolescent sex offenders are not sexual predators and will not go on to become adult offenders.

    Researchers estimate that 38 percent of child victims disclose their sexual abuse. Of these, 40 percent tell a close friend. This means that the vast majority of child sexual abuse victims never report the abuse to authorities. Research suggests, however, that such disclosure rates may be increasing. And it is estimated people only fabricate 4 to 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports.

    Who is most at risk?

    • Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse.

    • Children living without either parent are 10 times more likely to be sexual abuse victims than children who live with both biological parents.

    • Those who live with a single parent that has a live in partner are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.

    • Females are five times more likely to experience abuse than males.

    • While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.

    • The risk for sexual abuse is tripled for children whose parent(s) are not in the labor force.

    Who are perpetrators looking for?

    First, you should know that perpetrators say they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes. Abusers frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting, working proactively to establish a relationship with them before abusing them. They might also seek to establish a trusting relationship with the victim’s family as well.

    So, what can you do?

    Step 1: Learn the facts- Reading this is a great start.

    Step 2: Minimize the risk- Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse.

    Step 3: Talk about it- Have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex, and boundaries.

    Step 4: Recognize the signs- Know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm.

    Step 5: React responsibly- Understand how to respond to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of abuse.

    As concerned community citizens, everyone can take action against child sexual abuse.

    Finally, if you want know more about how you can protect children from sexual abuse, visit Darkness to Light. You'll find more resources, along with a downloadable booklet for families and communities that outlines the steps you can take.

    For even more information:

    • If you suspect abuse, call 1-877-237-0004 in Tennessee, or 1-800-4-A-CHILD nationwide

    • Children’s Advocacy Center -423-266-6918

    • Chattanooga Kids on the Block – 423-757-5259

    • Partnership for Children Families and Adults - 423-697-3812

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    Love Shouldn't Hurt: Teen Dating Abuse

    The former professional athlete sat in the therapist’s office, sobbing. He and his wife had taken away their daughter’s cellphone the day before. While watching television that night, a picture of the boy their daughter was “talking” to popped up. It wasn’t just any picture. It was a sexual pose with private parts exposed.

    Shocked at what they saw, they had their daughter open up her phone. They were stunned to see many compromising pictures, not only of the boy, but of their daughter as well.

    Devastated, the father asked the therapist, “How could this be? I will never be able to erase these images from my brain. What do we do now?”

    At a July 2016 conference on healthy relationships, Dr. Jill Murray, psychologist and author of But He Never Hit Me and Destructive Relationships, shared her experience working at a domestic violence shelter. She found that every woman she interviewed there began their abusive relationships when they were 13 or 14 years old, going from abuser to abuser.

    While many parents might automatically suspect physical abuse, some don’t consider the possibility of abuse with incredibly controlling behavior using cellphones.

    Consider this:

    • 54 percent of teens say they communicate hourly with the person they are dating via cellphone between midnight and 5 a.m.
    • 38 percent of teens receive texts 30 to 50 times an hour by their boy/girlfriend inquiring about what they are doing.
    • 78 percent of parents are unaware their teen feels afraid in their dating relationship.
    • 87 percent of parents are unaware their teen has been asked to have sex via their cellphone.
    • 82 percent of parents are unaware of cellphone use through the night.

    Current statistics indicate that:

    • 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault in college.
    • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 guys will be in a physically violent relationship.
    • The vast majority (85 percent) of teen violence is not physical at all. Rather, it is emotional and verbal abuse.
    • 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
    • Gender is not a qualifier.

    “This is a huge epidemic,” asserts Murray. “The reason I use the word 'epidemic' is because if we had a disease in this country that affected 85 percent of teens we would consider it an epidemic. This is a huge problem that we can’t overlook.

    “When I speak to teens I tell them, 'If you are ever in a relationship where you feel frightened, scared to tell the truth, scared of making them angry, scared not to keep your cellphone on all night, or you spend a lot of time crying about your relationship, you are in an abusive relationship,'” Murray says.

    “It is important to remember that teens have limited life experience and perspective. Their perspective is shaped by music, video games and the Kardashians. When we tell them it is not normal to be afraid or to not answer your cell at all hours of the day and night, they are shocked.”

    A typical 14-year-old has no idea that a relationship is abusive when one person makes the rules, constantly changes the rules but doesn’t follow them and causes the other person in the relationship to be afraid of breaking the rules. Murray believes adults everywhere have a responsibility to educate young people about what healthy relationships look like and how to protect themselves from abusive ones.

    “Education is the key,” Murray says. “In addition to teaching teens, parents need to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships.”

    Your Teen Might Be in an Abusive Relationship IF:

    • He/she becomes physically agitated, nervous or unreasonably upset about giving up their cellphone at night.
    • He/she is always tired and seems like they don’t rest because of nighttime texting.
    • The person he/she is dating seems to try and isolate them from friends, family and their typical activities.
    • They cry frequently, seem nervous and have trouble making decisions.
    • They are constantly “reporting in” to their boy/girlfriend.

    What Can You Do?

    “I tell teens, love is a behavior,” Murray says. “Teens are feeling, feeling, feeling to the 10th power. Everything is big and dramatic. You can tell yourself that your feelings are anything. Then you get them to just look at behavior. Things like: He cheats on you. Is that loving behavior? She lies to you. Is that loving behavior? You're losing sleep. Is that loving behavior?

    “It gives them the opportunity to open up boxes in their head. It’s a new way of looking at their relationship that focuses on behavior. This is really important. This is the only way we can talk with them. Essentially, we are backing them into a corner where their only out is logic. Then, I tell them there are three things you have control over: your thoughts, your actions and your reactions. And hoping things will be different is not a strategy.”

    Although most parents probably don't think this could happen to their child, ignorance can be very dangerous. Despite the tension it may cause, conversations on this topic are critical. Make sure they understand what healthy and unhealthy behavior looks like in a relationship, because this has the potential to impact them long into adulthood.