What About the Children?

The New California Law Proposal

I’ve been really struggling on how to present what is happening in California, and let’s face it, all over the World. The issue of whether pedophilia is a disorder, is really not up for discussion, is it? It is truly a disorder, and at the very least, requires therapeutic intervention. This light-handed approach, however, only applies to those who identify as having thoughts or emotions about prepubescent children in a sexual manner, not those who have acted on their thoughts and feelings. Acting out fantasies with children IS a crime, should remain a crime, and should always have criminal consequences attached.

The kind of movement we see sweeping across our nation is not new. For the past fifty years, there have been books written, college courses taught, and even entire cultures created around the idea, and practice, of sex with children. I am quite sure there have been movements and pockets of advocacy for pedophiles from the beginning of time, simply labeled under the guise of a religious order and held in secrecy (so many are, even today). But, the fact remains, children are children. By the very nature of their physical, emotional, and cognitive development do not and will not, ever have the capacity to consent to such sexual acts.

The new law in California states that if a child “consents” and the age gap is 10 years or less, there will be no criminal consequence, a.k.a. sex offender registration. Essentially, if a 24-year-old perpetrates anal or oral sex with a 14-year-old and she claims it was consensual, all is well and good, according to the state statute. Does anyone else see this as a problem? The State of California has just declared that anyone can rape a child, claim the victim consented, and get away with it. This law does not explicitly state that pedophilia is or is not a thing, a crime, a disorder, etc. It doesn’t actually mention pedophilia, but seriously? Who on earth would choose to sodomize, perform or receive oral or vaginal sex, from a child and not be a pedophile, for that is the very definition.

Growing up with a predator, I totally understand why a victim would claim what has happened was consensual. Loyalty, self-blame, shame, dissociation, any number of psychological implications play a part when in comes to disclosure. Placing the burden of proof between rape and consent when there is a 14 or 15-year-old, or any child (under 18 years old) is criminal in in of itself.

As it stands, in California, vaginal sex is legal if both parties consent, even when the girl or boy is only 14-years-old and the age gap within 10 years. The new law would make it legal for an adult to perform or receive oral or anal sex with a minor, within a 10-year age gap. You can draw your own conclusions as to why that may be.

The bottom line is, pedophilia is a mental health disorder, pedophilia acted out IS a crime, and adults who choose to have sex with children; vaginal, anal, oral, or otherwise should be held responsible. I clearly recognize that there are laws out there that make it difficult for a 19-year-old to “date” a 16-year-old. I also recognize that law enforcement and judges have some discretion when it comes to these cases and Romeo and Juliet laws exist for a reason. What I do not agree with is a 10 year age gap being the bench mark, and 14 being the age of consent, developmental changes within children can vary widely from year to year. This change to the California statute provides a slippery slope into pedophiles declaring open season on children, simply because this law is “close enough.” Slippery slopes often become uncontrollable landslides, and the children will be the ones to pay the price.

~Amy Joy   

Thoughts on This Easter Sunday, In the Midst of Chaos and Fear

So, I have heard and seen from different sides of this time of chaos and crisis and here are some thoughts.

  1. The media thrives on fear and chaos and will do as much as possible to create and continue fear and chaos. There is very little truth presented in media.
  2. Politicians are always campaigning, even if that means putting more people at risk and feeding the fear and chaos for which the media thrives.
  3. We, me included, often forget who we belong to. I am not one who subscribes to God only being for one group or another, He is sovereign over ALL, universal and infinite.
  4. Yes, this will pass and yes, people will pass with it and yes, many more will lose hope and be unable to sustain their mental, physical, and spiritual health.
  5. The invisible populations have become even more unseen. The sacrificial lambs in this crisis, our children who are trapped, in every sense of the word, with abusive parents and relatives; domestic violence victims, who for the same reason, are trapped with their abuser; those who already struggle with mental health and now find themselves completely isolated, friends and family often divided on political issues, in-fighting, and anxiety and depression, are all taking a toll (“we’re all in this together” is a very false narrative); those being exploited in the sex industry, particularly our children who are forced to create the infant, toddler, and child porn because the demand has gone up exponentially (if you’re stuck at home, find something else to do with your time, porn isn’t the way out of your currently reality but it is the currently reality for the children and adults tortured to meet the demand).
  6. Today is Easter and we are reminded of the ever-present hope of Christ but please stop with the platitudes. “This too shall pass” is great but for one on the brink of suicide it doesn’t resonate. Instead, call or face time or find some way to start a non-judgmental conversation. Perhaps, set up a time to watch a movie together through Netflix.
  7. I know there is a lot of controversy around the restriction on our constitutional freedoms and if it is necessary to preserve life or a slippery slope into political control with tones of socialism. It is not the “Christian” thing to do, to passively accept slavery. If you are called to remain silent and pray, yes, please do that. Not everyone was created for the physical battlefield but rather the War Room (prayer). Ignoring the fundamentals simply provides an easy road for oppression and tyranny. Do what you were called to do and let’s stop judging others for not being called to same action.

I know that I am going to get backlash from this but as I sit here, alone, I can’t help but logically think about what all of this is doing to the state of our world (personal and universal). Will we really come together, or will we continue to call the police on our neighbors? Will we really keep saying “they’re lying to us to save lives” (yes, that is something I have seen in FB conversation)? Will we continue to sit back and let others run our lives? Or, will we instead understand that logic and critical thinking is necessary to make informed decisions? Fear and panic eliminate logic. Fear and panic always lead to war, death, and a narrative of ‘us and them.’

Let’s take a lesson from history and not let this become the next genocide, by creating Marshall law, tattling on neighbors, and allowing our basic freedoms to be eliminated. These are difficult times we live, and here on this Holiest of days, shall we remember to whom we belong, or will we shrink beneath men and women who have taken a position as Ruler over our states and nation?

I hope you find love and connection today.

Blessings,

Amy Joy

A Little Wisdom For Parenting Young Adults

Amy Joy

January 5, 2020

Some days I wonder what on earth possessed me to have children, and then some days I look at my now sort-of grown children, in awe of their wisdom and compassion. When they were little, it was easy to parent the simple things… “no, you can’t eat hotdogs for six straight days.” As they grew, the issues became more serious, more life-altering… “if you lose your cool and punch the kid who stole your coat, you will get suspended.” Those rules of course, change as they get older and assault becomes a felony, the consequences are much more severe. It was my main purpose through their adolescent years to merely get them through school without acquiring a criminal record or ending up dead. I know these seem like extreme goals, but this is how it is when you have children who make questionable (put delicately) decisions. Not all kids get in trouble, but mine did.

My oldest son had difficulty saying “no” to his not-so-great friends. His trouble started in high school when he fell in with the wrong bunch. Unfortunately, a close-knit group formed out of the marching band and together, they used drugs and consistently found themselves in trouble. My youngest hit her “holy crap adolescent years” very early. By nine-years-old, she got the attitude that all parents dread. Gratefully, by about sixteen-years-old she was well on her way out of the hellish teenitude years and gracefully sliding into young adulthood.

Now that both of my kids are well into their young adult years, it is a whole different parenting world. Many days I know they have a handle on their lives, who they are, and on their way to becoming the best versions of themselves; not today. My daughter, who is currently enjoying her last year of being a teen, has put me on the edge. She is quite capable of doing her own laundry, cooking her own food, cleaning up after herself….and yet, here we are, in the middle of a weird teenitude meltdown. Trying to make a claim there is no food in the house, she is simply upset that I am not an instant cook with the ability to create a dish reminiscent of our local Mexican restaurant. “No, darling, I cannot magically produce your chicken and guacamole bowl,” I say with as much compassion as I can muster and not a hint of an eyeroll (I am very proud of myself). You see, parenting young adults is like walking a delicate tightrope. Don’t say too much, don’t give the wrong glance, and swiftly back out of the room.  

My own experiences raising young adults has led me to do some research in the area. How do you parent young adults? What follows are the ideas and practices that have emerged during my twenty-one years of parenting, guidance from other parents who have ‘been there, done that,’ and, wisdom offered from the mental health community.

  1. Address every situation with compassion, without enabling. It is important for young adults to know they have you, their parent/caregiver, in their corner and their best interests at heart. At the same time, remaining objective and calm when an issue arises will keep your relationship in-tact and help your emerging adult think on their own when trying to solve problems and make decisions. For instance, if your young adult has just bounced a car payment, accrued fees, and is now stuck for gas money for the next week, this is a great opportunity to assist without enabling. Let he or she know that you understand how difficult this can be to navigate but it is not the end of the world and let them take care of it. If they need guidance when calling the bank to discuss what went wrong, that is helpful for them and still allows you to remain on the sidelines. Let them do the adulting. Overparenting can lead to an over-exaggerated sense of entitlement.
  2. Be available. It is vital that your children, at any age, know you are available and willing to offer advice when asked. I find myself often swept up in a social media world, gazing at my phone while my daughter is trying to talk to me about her day. When I realize what is happening and she is trying to connect, I find she is now captivated by her digital world, and I have lost her for those moments. We all have days where our children, or young adults, require more attention than others but it is important we are aware and present to their needs. Put down the phone, ipad, laptop, whatever it is that has your attention and listen to what your young adult is telling you. There will be a day when they won’t want to tell you what happened at work or who they are dating, pay attention and foster open communication.
  3. Create and hold onto family traditions. When children are, you know, children and still at home, it is much easier to impose weekly game night. Young adults who have ventured out and live on their own often feel a sense of disconnect from the family. Stress the importance to maintain family gatherings. Staying connected is so important to a smooth transition from living at home, to full independence.

At the end of the day, your young adult should know they are loved, you are available, and they are capable of making their own decisions.

References:

Givertz, M. & Segrin, C., (2012). The association between overinvolved parenting and young adults’ self-efficacy, psychological entitlement, and family communication. Communication Research. doi: 10.1177/0093650212456392

Expressive Writing

Expressive Writing: It Just Works (at least it did for me)
Amy Joy November 26, 2018

“Even when the costs are high, the confession of painful secrets can reduce anxiety and physiological stress.” (Pennebaker)
The impact of trauma, adverse experiences, and everyday stress can take a toll on the body. Having no avenue for releasing all the emotion and feelings associated with previous trauma, horrible events, and stress can have a devastating impact on the physical body. Psychosomatic Syndrome is more commonplace than most would like to admit. The connection between experiencing a parent’s divorce and having asthma attacks can be hard to detect if that reaction has always been present. It is easy to blame our physical issues on things that make sense to us in the moment. It must be arthritis, getting older is the reason for the persistent pain in back and neck, not the consistent stress of an abusive marriage. We often do not see the mess we are in, while we are in it. Providing a pathway to examine the body, mind, and spirit can give us insight and wisdom. When we begin to realize why we think and feel the way we do, only then can we change how we think and feel.
Expressive writing is the process of writing about distressing events or thoughts, for 15 – 20 minutes, 3-4 times a week. Research shows that those who practice expressive writing have better physical and mental health; it promotes healthy solutions to difficult situations or thoughts, building resilience to help face day to day challenges and difficult situations. (Pennebaker)
After experiencing on-going trauma, I can say with all certainty that finding something to ease the constant running of flashbacks, the daily anxiety attacks, and hyper-vigilance is a Godsend. I can also say that I have managed to accomplish quite a bit, even with the daily upheaval, I cannot imagine what would be possible if these challenges (light word for it) were no longer in the front seat, often driving this brain and body. Life is short and precious, and I have spent far too much of it given over to a monster.
Expressive writing not only helps to get things out of the conscience and sub-conscience but it helps considerably when getting those thoughts and feelings out verbally. The written word is the first step in conveying emotion, for so many survivors of childhood trauma.
When I first started seeing my therapist, it was nearly impossible to say anything of actual substance. In fact, I spent the better part of a year shooting the breeze, so-to-speak, and never talked about why I was there. Being the gracious and extremely patient person, she is, she never threw up a judgmental glance or sarcastic tone; she waited. She waited until we, all the parts of who we are, were safe enough to talk. That time came but then, still no words came out of my mouth. I found myself almost catatonic, without words and completely blank inside. I was shut down. After a few sessions like this, we decided that perhaps journaling would be beneficial and
then I could share that journal every week and we could process through all the crazy thoughts. This worked! It still works and was a complete lifesaver.
Journaling through therapy sessions has been a wonderful way to communicate but I would be lying if I said we still had no issues saying what we needed to, at least in the present moment. We would read through the journal and begin to process, but then there we were again, no words. That’s when we came up with tiny little flash cards with emotions, feelings, body sensations, and other relevant words on them to describe what was happening in the moment. These too, are a lifesaver. They help us get through most sessions.
Essentially, journaling for me has gotten me through some very tough difficult stuff, repeatedly. It provides me with a way to communicate, not just day to day, but in the moments where I am rendered mute and helpless. Journaling has helped me put actual words to my feelings and emotions, something I found many people cannot do. It has helped to communicate my deepest fears, greatest joys, and process through the mundane. Journaling has given me a voice, a way to tell my story, and get through it without deep distress. Without it, I would still be muddling my way through therapy sessions, talking only about the kids, the bills, and the cats; never really getting to the heart of issues.
My own personal experience with beginning this process, of guided journaling has been very difficult, insightful, and productive, so far. I have written things I never imagined I would or could.
The first day I was to write about some sort of trauma or emotional upheaval and boy did I start with a doozy. I won’t go into it but, it took me through a range of emotions, from fear to terror to anger and rage. I sent that first writing to my amazing therapist, not knowing if she would even want to read it, it was pretty long and I was not appropriate to send it over a holiday weekend, but she did read it and encouraged and edified us all. That meant so much to me. To know I am cared for, it overwhelms me. I constantly feel this draw to lean in and then pull away. Trying to find that perfect balance between letting myself be loved and comforted, and wanting to find the furthest, most empty place on earth to hide and wallow. Does everyone feel this way? I wonder.
Needless to say, this journaling thing is absolutely bringing out things that have been long buried, whether that will lead to greater stability after standing in quicksand for so long, I don’t know, but right now, I am willing to go on this journey and find out.
What is guided journaling? How is different from day to day journaling?
Day to day journaling is great but often misses the real heart of why and how we function, why we make the decisions we do, and how our lives are impacted by the past. It is great for keeping track of emotions, eating and sleeping habits, how irritated the kids made you that day, but to dig deeper you need a better tool.
Guided journaling comes with tools and a set of guidelines to help dig into those really hard parts of your past, process them, create your narrative, and set the past aside, where it should be. It is very important to note here, having a therapist, minister, or someone who can process all this with you is so vital. Please find someone who do not judge you but will help you process, put into perspective, and let go.
I really hope you give guided journaling a try. The book “Opening Up By Writing It Down” by James Pennebaker, can help guide you through this process. Take it “low and slow” as my therapist would say, and know that whether you have deep wounds from childhood or just need some help processing your emotions, journaling can be a wonderful therapeutic tool, provide an outlet for built-up anxiety and over time, develop a healthier mind and body.