Monday, December 30, 2013

Protecting Our Children’s Innocence in 2014 ------------------- A Group Effort

Are we equipped to combat the threats against the innocence of our children’s minds, bodies and spirits?  Everywhere we turn there is toxic sexual content in our media, music, gaming and advertisements, and yet we are oblivious to the messaging our youth receive on a consistent basis.  This is not a message of respect, of boundaries, of strong moral and ethical values but just the opposite.  It is a constant message that steals the innocence of our children and sexualizes them at a very young age.  It is a message that desensitizes them to the destruction of their innocence and the threat of sexual abuse.  It is a message that tells them it is okay to engage is sexual activity at any age with anyone.  We have lost the moral compass that protects the innocence of our children. 

So how do we combat the ocean of sexual perversion and the risk of sexual abuse?  Here are some tips that may help you in the challenge to keep your child safe in 2014.

  1. Acknowledge that your child is at risk of sexual abuse.  The CDC reports 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and only 1 in 10 children ever tell.
  2. We must talk to our children about sex and sexual abuse.  These difficult conversations need to begin at an early age, teaching children that their private parts are only to be touched for health and hygiene and with permission from you.  Share with your child that they must filter out content and use self -control to walk away, turn off and unplug from sexual content that is unhealthy, conversations that are sexual and circumstances that are uncomfortable.  Use examples of content that is appropriate and inappropriate to view, affection that crosses the line and actions that violate their boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.
  3. Open up a dialogue so your child can ask you, share with you, and be comfortable to come to you if they are ever threatened with sexual abuse.   Secrecy is the most powerful arsenal to keep a child silenced and powerless.  Express the importance of honesty and openness so that you can always protect them.
  4. Explain to your child the definition of child sexual abuse. The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse in these terms:  “Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and adult (or other child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or observer.  A central characteristic of abuse is the domination of a child by the perpetrator through deception, force, or coercion into sexual activity.  Children, due to their age, cannot give meaningful consent to sexual activity.  Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching behaviors like sexual kissing; inappropriate touching or fondling of the child’s genitals, beasts or buttocks; masturbation; oral-genital contact; sexual or digital (with fingers) penetration; pornography (forcing the child to view or use of the child in); child prostitution; exposure or flashing of body parts to a child, voyeurism (ogling a child) or verbal pressure for sex.  Use your discretion in sharing this definition and put into terms your child will best understand.
  5. Make sure your child understands that not every adult or older youth in their life may be safe.  It is critical that you always monitor one-on-one interactions between an adult or older youth and your child.  Drop in unexpected.  Ask how the time together was spent and pay close attention to body language and their ability to recount the visit.
  6. You must explain that sexual abuse is a crime and those that would take advantage of a child need to be stopped and need help.  Their silence may put other children at risk. 
  7. If your child discloses that they have been sexually abused, it will be a shocking and painful revelation and may even be difficult to accept.  Research shows that 93% of abuse is by someone your child knows, loves and trusts and subsequently you may know, love and trust the abuser.  Your focus must be the safety, affirmation and support of your child.  You need to respond with, “I believe you, this is not your fault, and it is my job to protect you.”  You must reassure your child that they have done the right thing by telling you and call child protective services or 911 immediately.  Tell your child that they must recount every detail of the abuse that they can remember in order to seek justice.  Unfortunately, children are easily discredited in our legal system and every detail is important.
  8. The internet is a dangerous playground for our children, exposing them to two great risks:  1) pornography is easily accessible, addictive and your child can be exposed to the most perverted content by navigating through thousands of pornography sites free of charge; 2) predators are searching for children online and may easily communicate with them under the guise of another child.  They can access information that will quickly lead to your child’s location.  Monitor all of your child’s activity online.  Make sure you are on every social networking and chat site and monitor all communications and have strict rules of engagement online, gaming sites and cell phones.  Make sure you have parental controls and monitoring software so you will be notified if they visit risky sites.
  9. Child sexual abuse is a profound wound.  There are 42 million reported survivors of child sexual abuse, which is grossly under reported.  If you are a survivor, it is important that you break your silence and be diligent in getting the professional help you need to heal.  If your abuser is a member of your family or extended family, they have not stopped their pursuit of children and your child is at risk.  If you have not dealt with your own trauma of sexual abuse, it will be challenging to give your child the power to face the risk of sexual abuse.  
  10. Be vigilant to not only protect your child but all the children in your life.  Pay attention to drastic changes in behavior.  There are many signs of child sexual abuse and there may be no sign at all.  It is important not to ignore signs and even more important to keep a constant line of conversation about the issue of sex and sexual abuse so your child will feel comfortable to come to you with any questions or disclosures.

Thank you for learning more about the issue of child sexual abuse and for becoming vigilant about protecting the innocence of our children.  Please visit VOICE Today at to learn how you can join THE VOICE MOVEMENT to help keep the next generation of children safe and help those wounded by sexual abuse heal.

view book trailer

                            11 Year Old Survivor Speaks Part 1

11 Year Old Survivor Speaks Part 2

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GRACE IN HEALING by Theresa Harvard Johnson Guest Blogger

Theresa Harvard Johnson
By my dear friend Theresa Harvard Johnson
Grace In Healing
Copyright 2012 Theresa Harvard Johnson

I am an invisible girl, sitting in an invisible chair;

People walk by me, never noticing that I am there.

They can't hear my invisible screams as I rise or see me my invisible stand;

and when I reach for an embrace, they slip through my invisible hands.

Can someone tell me what's wrong with me?

Why are these people just passing by?

Does my invisible tears upset them,

when they hear my silent cry?

I am tortured in my existence,

I'd be better off if I wasn't here at all.

Because I know that if I was chopped down as a tree,

no one would hear or see my invisible fall.

I wrote, “Theresa the Invisible,” when I was around 15-years-old.

In my youth and most of my adulthood, I struggled to express any heart-felt emotion outside of an intense, unquenchable rage – which nearly destroyed me. I didn’t know it then, but I came to realize that whatever I couldn’t speak I could somehow write.
My writing consisted primarily of poetry (perceptive, depressive and very, very dark) and short stories (fantasy, romanticism & fiction). Most of my early writings painted pictures of the deep depth of emotion buried inside me from a lifetime of severe abuse and neglect.
I remember sitting in my ninth grade art class at the close of the school day one evening when my favorite teacher, Sherry Jamison, sat down beside me, placed her hand upon mine and tenderly asked, “Theresa, are you okay?”

 I can remember looking up at her with such emptiness inside me and answering, “I don’t know Ms. J but can I read you this poem I wrote.” You see, this is how I answered my friends when I was too afraid or to ashamed to speak. It was always a “let me share this poem” or “why don’t you read this story I wrote.” Beyond my trusted notebook, I rarely shared my heart.
I took a huge step reading that poem to Ms. Jamison that day. I took a leap of faith in trusting her, and as a result, she became a powerful exhorter in my life – someone who “could see” me. The seeds planted during that time have strong roots in who I am today.

That poem marked the beginning of a deep mentoring relationship – in art and in life. Now, as I look back on that time, I realize that Ms. Jamison learned a lot about who I really was that school year. She was the first adult to hear or read my private poetry and short stories – some of which revealed the effects of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse that shaped my mind and numbed my emotions. She was the first person to say to me, “Theresa, you have a brilliant mind and unlimited potential. You need to know that you can have a good life.”
I’ll never forget what she said to me that day. I’d never thought that my life would be any different than that of the people around me, after all I was hanging out a shot houses (where you could buy liquor for a dollar a glass) and juke joints at night (back yard dance clubs in people’s homes or apartments) when it wasn’t safe for me to go home. She put her hand firmly on my shoulder and looked me squarely in the eyes: “Theresa, look at me,” she insisted. I remember lifting my head from such a deep, deep place of shame. “Look at me! None of this is your fault! You didn’t do anything wrong. What is wrong is what has been done to you.”
I’ll never forget the overwhelming emotions that coursed through me in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about what had happened in the past or even where I would go from this point. I simply remembered thinking, “I’m not invisible anymore.” People could see me. I remember feeling so happy that someone cared about me. I had a mentor, who over the months that followed, would walk with me as I transitioned from my home, the physical and emotional abuse I was facing daily at the hands of my mother, and into the foster care system.

Somebody cared. I had value.

You see, there are times in the midst of our healing process in which “we question” where Jesus was in the midst of the suffering. We wonder why He didn’t stop the pain, why he didn’t interrupt the rape, the molestation, the harsh words… the terror. Even though I was a believer, I spent YEARS not fully trusting God, understanding him as Father or believing that the fullness of His love really extended to me.

As a result, when things seemed to go haywire I would find myself asking, “JESUS, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE ME? WHY DIDN’T YOU INTERVENE IN THIS SITUATION?” I don’t know about you, but I walked through this valley more than once in the midst of maturing in my faith. While the situation might have been different, the root was the same: There was a place in me in which I believed God had abandoned me all those years ago. Therefore, anytime something major happened in my life…. my soul (on automatic pilot) would revert to those painful times.

It was in this place of questioning the Lord in prayer one evening that I received an answer. While I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do, I knew it was a time in which this question, for me, would be buried forever. I laid my head back in my office chair – quietly, yet uncontrollably weeping, repentant, grateful and in need of breakthrough all at once. After some time passed and I’d calmed down, I heard this in my Spirit:

“Theresa, I was with you in every violation, struggle and place of pain. I eagerly read your journal entries, poems and short stories as you wrote them. I listened to your words with the force and gentleness of every pen stroke. I laughed with you in the midst of your joy, and wept with you in the midst of sorrow. I grieved with you at the center of all that was lost and stolen. Beloved, nothing concerning you has EVER been hidden from me! I was YOUR PEN. I was the one capturing your tears in a bottle! I was with you when you didn’t know my name; and stood patiently, waiting to come into your heart. I was leading your high school teacher, and others who have come your way. When YOU realized you needed me and granted me entrance into your heart, I embraced you without hesitation and I rushed in. YOU have always been mine. I am holding you, even now, in my arms and releasing wholeness in every incomplete place in your soul. Receive it. Today, I have your trust.”

With my head lying back in that chair, the tears fell – not of sorrow, but of release, peace and joy. Countless medications, in-hospital treatment and therapy sessions could not do what God did in that moment. It was over.

These were tears of healing, closure, peace, understanding, VICTORY and… rest in my Father. These were tears of true forgiveness. I was able to finally let go of this debilitating part of my past.

From that moment forward, I was able to see Jesus as my advocate through my pen all those years ago. I was able to see him through Ms. Jamison’s hand and all those like her whom God had sent throughout my life. Sitting back in that office chair, I was SO VERY THANKFUL, GRATEFUL! I was able to see and RECEIVE the grace in which His love has truly consumed me.

I came to know this truth from pursuing His presence: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CJB, “Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness.”



Sunday, January 13, 2013

30 Years Ago Tonight

Thirty years ago tonight I tried to take my life.  I was at the lowest point of desperation and had no where to turn, no one to care, and felt I had no other options.  To those of you reading this blog, and have experienced thoughts of suicide, perhaps even planned it out in your head or gone as far as I did and actually attempt, I implore you to stop and get help.  I planned to kill myself a thousand different ways with my first attempt as young as 8 years old.  On this night 30 years ago, at age 17, I made a more deliberate  attempt and I executed the plan.  I ingested 64 sleeping pills and drank a bottle of vodka in the deep of the woods, where my body would not be found for days.  

I was one of the lucky ones who attempt suicide.  I received a miracle, a divine intervention that saved my life.   At the time I didn't understand why, I just felt like a failure and made two other futile attempts on this night 30 years ago.  

I know what it feels like to feel worthless, hopeless and helpless.  This side of 30 years, I also see the value of my life and how many lives would not exist nor be on their path to healing, without the interception with my life.  I see two special lives that God allowed me to birth, and they will leave a huge fingerprint on humanity.  I have a precious soulmate in my husband, that would never have known the closeness and intimacy we share.  I founded an organization, VOICE TODAY ( that is working diligently to break the silence & cycle of child sexual abuse through awareness, prevention and healing programs and resources.  In my broken desperation 30 years ago  I could not see into the future, and I see now had I succeeded what a selfish act that would have been.

God has a purpose and plan for my life that only I can accomplish.   Many can take up the torch of child sexual abuse awareness, prevention and healing but only I can do it like Angela Williams, with my specially created gifts, talents and fingerprint.  God has a purpose and a plan for your life.  God had a purpose for my life for nothing else to reach you today to say there is a better way.  There is ALWAYS hope even if we are blinded to it, and it may be just crying out to God to show you the direction of the light of hope.  

My pain was rooted in 14 years of verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse iced with abandonment and neglect.  I don't know the root of your pain but I do know that we serve a powerful and mighty God that loves you deeply and has created you for greatness  I know that my life was spared for a reason, to stand in the gap with all those that are hurting so deeply and tell them that they deserve to live.  Not just live but to live the life God created them for; full of love, passion, purpose and peace.  My prayer for you today is that you find hope and healing on a path to freedom.  I pray that you will be freed from any self destructive thoughts or behaviors.  

That path may include professional help, a spiritual experience, a friend or family member to encourage and support your healing journey.  Our journeys are all different.   I pray that you reach out from your isolation and find your VOICE to tell whoever is in your world, that you need help and share any thoughts or plans of suicide.  I promise you that those thoughts are not the answer.  The answer is to believe that the pain you feel can and will heal.

Today, thirty years later from the moment I attempted to end my life, I celebrate my life.  I see this day as an anniversary of a new birth of freedom and I celebrate every life I have been honored to touch!

Bless you and my prayers are with you.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


This is the year that our voices will be heard!  Our volume will get louder and louder until the masses hear and understand that child sexual abuse is a heinous crime cocooned in silence that needs our urgent attention.  We must stand in the gap for those wounded, the children that need to be protected and the millions that need understanding.  Please join THE VOICE MOVEMENT Today by reaching out to offer whatever resource you can give;  time, talent or financial resources.  The next generation of children are depending on us to rise up and take a stand against the sexual abuse of children.  Now is the time to STAND IN THE GAP!