Sunday, October 8th, 2017, I had the privilege of doing a TEDx Talk at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. It was a milestone event. The young scholars who brought the program to fruition conducted themselves with grace, professionalism, and inspired the same in their speakers.
I hope you will watch this video, then return here with helpful responses. This video is part of a project for the second year of my Ph.D. program at Prescott College. I am studying and working to improve my effectiveness as a Child Rights Advocate.
If you find the message worthy, please pass it around your sphere of influence. Use your communication devices, social medias, mainstream media, even snail-mail. Share with people . . .
This young man, who was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and made his popular mark in life as an actor in Hollywood, is calling out
citizens of the world with a moral imperative to stop sexual slavery in this 21st Century. He has invested his time, energy, creativity, passion, and money into this Great Cause for Child Justice. He leads by example, and courageously uses language for this crime against humanity in unvarnished specificity.
Mr. Kutcher’s testimony evokes the wisdom of Edmond Burke,
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
The above Washington Post photo suits my purpose perfectly.
I missed a Women’s March in the early 1980’s. I did not realize the significance of the event until it was over. As best I remember it, I went to class that night at Arizona State University. A more important educational experience was taking place in the streets of a Phoenix suburb.
While working on my Masters of Counseling Degree, I was a volunteer and four-hour-per-week data analyst at the Center Against Sexual Assault (CASA). I was one of two men working there with a dozen or more women. It was a job which transformed into a lifetime mission of moral and legal justice for survivors and fatalities of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).
At the time, many of the staff were involved in planning a Take Back the Night march when a nearby mayor did something significantly unenlightened. Two serial rapists were stalking their prey in his community, and the mayor decided to wade in with an executive order. He established a nine-o’clock curfew for women to be off the streets, for their own safety. His timing could not have been more appropriate to the feminist cause. Women came out to march in what was then considered great numbers. I learned about the protest later from my co-workers.
The organizers started the march in the mayor’s community nine o’clock at night. The gathering was comprised of women from all races, religions, educations, classes, ages, incomes, gender identifications, and sexual orientations. The peaceful protesters not only united and came out against the female curfew, they demanded a male curfew. After all, who was making the streets dangerous, the women?!
Over the past three decades, I have learned about cultural and institutional discrimination and sexual abuses of women. I developed a deep respect and brotherly love for those women. This compassionate army of sisters welcomed me into their world. I have
missed that shared consciousness since my wife passed away three years ago. I still miss Carol, but I am no longer alone with my convictions.
I have discovered recently, at sixty-four years of age, a cadre of dedicated and passionate kindred spirits. I found them in the Ph.D. program at Prescott College, Arizona.
After much time quietly standing back and closely observing our nation’s political season, I have decided it is time for me to declare where I stand. This past weekend I found my political tribe. I do not enter this commitment blindly. I have issues to debate with some of the members.
However, we are confronted with what I believe may be the bleakest challenges in American history. I believe the most visionary, prophetic, and moral group available to me has been called together in the Women’s March on Washington.
I now join my peaceful warrior sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and brothers with gratitude and humility.
I stand with women and men all around the world. That indigenous person in the photo with her raised and closed hand expresses solidarity. She represents me. I am there with her and the rest of those women. I embrace our cause.
The little girl on the cover of Without Consent could be any little girl of any age, race, religion, or language. This particular child’s name is Carol Ann, and she is three-and-a-half-years-old, the age when her childhood sexual abuse began. Her’s lasted into young adulthood. She passed away November 20th, 2013 at the age of seventy-six.
Carol and I wrote Without Consent at a time in life when we were in good health, had a successful counseling business, and worked together with a remarkable harmony and passion to change the world . . . a mission, if you will. We took risks like we were bullet-proof. We felt we could overcome any obstacle.
We wrote steadily for two years in the early 80’s. Then our daughter was in a car accident. We nursed her back to health most of the following year, a process complicated by emerging issues of her own childhood sexual abuse. We went back and finished our manuscript five years after we had begun.
When we started writing this book there were few resources available to understand and treat the damage inflicted by childhood sexual abuse. It was a subject that people rarely talked about in public, especially among men. In the fall of 1989, Without Consent found an enthusiastic audience.
Through the efforts of our publisher, Swan Press, our book was an immediate critical success in a wide variety of communities. . . academic, feminist, religious, scientific, legal, medical, and counseling. Libraries across the country picked it up. Copies went to a village in northern Canada, others to New Zealand. The International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect reviewed it favorably in the U.S. and Belgium. Readers’ letters of gratitude began to come in.
Then the publishing company went out of business, the book went out of print, and Carol’s health took a torturous turn for the worse, predominantly due to the damage done to her body early in life.
Some things in the field of child abuse have not changed. The cruelty of childhood sexual abuse continues. Denial continues. Are we at a significantly better place as a society? Of course we are, but the advances have not been as far-reaching as we would hope to see. So we persist.
Today the mainstream media covers child abuse cases in prime time, often with keen insights by knowledgeable people in the field. First-person life-stories seem to be everywhere. Girls, boys, spouses, family, and friends can now globally access life-saving information from countless resources through their local library, home computer, or e-reader.
This access is a monumental step forward. Carol and I enthusiastically supported persons seeking out information and opinions from varied resources. There is a wealth of insight available, for readers all over the world to network with and ask questions of.
Not every strategy works for every person. Life circumstances vary and each culture presents its own unique adaptations. Be a skeptical reader. Check things out. Make informed decisions about how to spend your time and energy. You are in control of your choices. You have the power to learn and grow in your own way, your individual path, your “road much less traveled.”
We believe that Without Consent has stood the test of time. The principles of change, health, and growth we put forth in our writing are as relevant today as they were two decades ago. Carol and I practiced these principles in our marriage, our family, our friendships and business.
This brings us to the most important criticism we have confronted since writing the original manuscript. It is the book’s subtitle How to Overcome Childhood Sexual Abuse. The key concern is in the use of the word “overcome.”
In retrospect, we should have made the subtitle – How to Overcome Childhood Sexual Abuse One-Day-At-A-Time.
That is the way healing and health seem to happen. Every day we do something to confront our fear, joy, gratitude, anger, and shame. When we look back and years have gone by, we realize we are stronger and more free than we were when we started.
As we change, the world around us changes. When we see ourselves in the mirror, we see more self-respect. We find ourselves having more good days than bad. The plan, strategy, therapy program, and/or spiritual path has been working. We know what we are guilty of and what we are not, and the shame has less power. We have mutually respectful and nourishing relationships that keep us going in a healthy direction. We continue to learn how to love and be loved.
Childhood sexual abuse brings suffering different than most tragedies. There is no hurricane or tsunami, plane crash or car wreck, no disease for which there is a cure. What happened was the result of someone’s perversions, insanity, destructiveness, or cruelty, you choose the words. From a moral perspective this specific group of children, regardless of race, religion, or language, suffer for the sins of others.
A couple decades ago, after a speech I gave, a man asked me a question. “With all due respect to the work you are doing Jeff . . Is the truth that when someone goes through severe sexual abuse, they never really get over it? They are never the same, and some things cannot be fixed?”
I stopped in my tracks and looked at the man to read his motive. He seemed sincere and was waiting to hear my answer. It occurred to me that my word choice would be important. I replied, “If you are asking if some things cannot be undone, that the past cannot be changed, then the answer is yes, life in never the same. But it has been my experience that the most courageous and accomplished people I have ever met are people who have survived horrendous life experiences and went on to do good things with their lives.”
The man looked at me curiously, waiting for me to say more. I paused and added, “In fact, I am married to one of those people. She is the most amazing person I have ever met, and I intend to spend the rest of my life with her.”
As Carol and I celebrated our marriage of twenty-six years, we offered Without Consent to the e-readership of the world. We were joyful and awed by re-entering the communities of dedicated people banding together to make a difference in the world. We were uplifted and humbled that you dear reader were taking the time to examine our work with a critical eye.
Our deepest gratitude went out to those who supported this e-edition of Without Consent. Henry Anthony Ebarb, J.D., Ph.D., a man whose exceptional intellect may be only exceeded by his extraordinary integrity and passion for seeing people triumph over adversity. Jack and Rocky, spiritual brothers, guardian angels, and ordinary beautiful human beings. Jack’s daughter and son, whose computer knowledge and generosity of efforts translated paper and print into words that can travel the world.
Our son Wolf, whose sober strength of body, mind, and spirit carried us through great challenges one-day-at-a-time. My Yaqui brother Forrest, whose earthly sensibilities and front porch conversations helped me keep my feet on the ground and my eyes on my path. To Roy and Deborah for introducing our work to the world. L.C., who has believed in our writing from the beginning, and who gave us a home when we had no place to go. And my parents, who started me on This Good Journey.
Finally, Teri Kojetin at The E-Book Editor for her patience, encouragement, and hard work walking a 20th Century writer into the 21st Century world of publishing in the clouds.
I will conclude by sharing with you that the little girl on the cover of this book lived long enough to become a great-grandmother, and she is still the most amazing woman I have ever met. Knowing Carol, sharing our life, nurturing our sexually abused daughter, made me a far better man than I would have been had we missed each other. In her physical absence on earth, it continues to be a fantastic journey.
My first client as a professional counselor was a little girl named Marie. She was three-
and-a-half years old. She was non-verbal and had not spoken a word since she was put into foster care. Both she and her six-year-old sister were being treated for gonorrhea. Both of their parents were in jail.
That was the fall of 1981. I was twenty-nine years old. I was a trained volunteer for The Center Against Sexual Assault. I had been taking regular shifts answering the 24-hour hotline..
Based on my undergraduate work as a research assistant and strong statistics background, the agency hired me as a data analyst for four hours per week at five dollars per hour.
Let me be clear.
This was not the work I planned on doing forever. I figured that if I could learn some counseling skills with that agency’s clientele, then I could probably handle just about any counseling situation that would come up in life.
My real goal was to get my Ph.D., go into Organizational Psychology, and make big bucks doing corporate work, solving interpersonal and group problems, helping big business function more efficiently.
Secondly, and more deeply important . . .
I thought this sexual assault organization might hold some insights or answers into my nagging dissatisfaction with my religious upbringing. I thought that if there was a God, and I was asking that question at that time in my life, then surely there would be something to discover in this fringe element of the counseling profession.
A few weeks after starting the job, a veteran therapist there, who knew I was in the Masters of Counseling Program, asked me if I would like to help her with the children’s play-therapy group.
I said that I would like to do that.
The therapist explained that the half-dozen children in the group were pre-school to second grade. There were two sisters just starting the group, ages 3-1/2 and 6. The foster parents of these two girls were very involved in the kids’ therapy and formed a good supportive family.
The lead therapist asked me to pay special attention to the littlest girl. She was going to need a lot of help. The other children we making progress at a reasonable pace.
Over those first three weeks I used what I learned in Early Childhood Development to build trust with Marie, making periodic eye contact, smiling, using a gentle voice, encouraging her to draw pictures and make choices. Session four, she was smiling back and engaging in some of the projects the other children were involved in. Then late in that session, there was a group sing along, and out of the blue, Marie joined in.
The first words I heard from Marie were in her singing a joyful sound. From there she grew by leaps and bounds.
The thing that drove the lesson home for me was a chance meeting two weeks later at a street fair in downtown Tempe. On a crowded sidewalk on a Saturday morning, I heard a little voice calling from behind me somewhere. I stopped and turned around, the crowd parted like the Red Sea. The little girl named Marie was running up the sidewalk calling out, “Mr. Kookendall, ( She had trouble pronouncing my name Kirkendall) Mr. Kookendall, Mr. Kookendall!” Her foster parents and sister were walking hand-in-hand behind her smiling at having surprised me.
I knelt down and greeted Marie. She gave me an appropriate hug. While I knelt at eye-to-eye level with Marie, we all talked for a while. Then I watched them walk away together Marie waving as she looked back.
My life changed that day forever.
Something Godly had happened, and I was a part of it.
I could not . . . I could not . . . I could not turn away.
For me, no work in the world could be more precious.
I was right. I worked saving children for 20 years.
It was this time of year thirty-four years ago that I met that little girl named Marie. I imagine her now in her late thirties, and I wish I could send her a letter.
Thank you . . where ever you are. . . Thank you Marie.
I pray that you are blessed with healthy children,