Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Helmet Analogy: Online safety and Child Sex Abuse Prevention

“The real enemy of safety is not non-compliance but non-thinking”
-Dr Rob Long



As I walk through the streets of Jerusalem I am constantly seeing people on bicycles.

I see young children riding and I see older adults riding.

I see people riding new bikes and I see people riding bikes that are quite old and worn.

I see people riding for fun and people riding because they need to get somewhere.

That’s all well and good.

What bothers me is that I see people riding without a helmet.

What bothers me even more is when I see someone with a helmet on top of their head and they don’t even bother clasping it below their chin (to securely fasten it).

The helmet is a perfect analogy for other safety provisions that one needs to have in place. There are those people who refuse to put in these needed provisions (e.g. those who don’t wear a helmet) and there are those who do so little, that while they believe they are protected, if something were to actually occur, it will quickly be obvious that they are not protected (e.g. an unsecured helmet will not protect the head during any type of fall/accident).

The two specific areas where I constantly see parents making the “helmet mistake” are in the areas of child sex abuse prevention and online safety.

There are some parents who believe that there is no need to speak to their children about these topics. That everything will be ok without any intervention.

That’s akin to riding a bicycle on a major roadway without a helmet, only more risky.

Then there are other parents, they spoke with their child once about the subject and thus they’ve “covered it”. Others put the onus onto the schools or teachers to teach these things.

Sorry.

That’s a helmet without it being securely fastened.

You are giving yourself the impression that you are protecting your child, but the chances of them being protected is extremely low.

You are the one who needs to speak with your child about child sex abuse prevention. You need to do it thoroughly and once is by no means enough.

Then there is online safety, an area where parents need to take a more active role.

Don’t be one of those parents who think the app is smarter than your child. Children keep finding new ways to get around filters and restrictions on their phones/computers. Plus, social media gives them a way to share their tricks/hacks with other kids in a very short period of time.

A recent Business Insider article (which I found here on Yahoo) discusses how children have found numerous ways to outsmart the newest iPhone controls, and how Apple has yet to fix these known issues.

This is not an article from an overly emotional mother discussing some no-name app someone told her about.

This is an article from a respected publication discussing how one of the most valuable companies in the world is being outsmarted by kids, and the company hasn’t found the fix yet.

Don’t expect them to find a permanent fix, as kids will figure out how to beat the next fix.

Thus the only real solution is being a more active parent. Meaning that you yourself are monitoring the phone and its usage.

Know your children’s passwords. Check their browsing and social media history/activity. Check which apps they have on their phone (and learn about decoy-apps) to see if they have something which isn’t appropriate.

Don’t be afraid to now and then have a peek at their emails and SMS.

Online predators and cyber bullies cause tremendous destruction to the lives of children and young adults around the globe.

If you plan on allowing your child to venture online, make sure they are properly supervised, and that means by you.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lessons from Skolnick Allegations

“If there's not any endgame, we're in quicksand. We take one more step, and we're still there, and there's no way out.”
-Richard Shelby



This article is inspired by the recent allegations against Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick. I do not know this person, but I would like to use this article to show parents some takeaways from this case. There are lessons here that we need to teach our children, as well as ourselves. For those of you who are not yet familiar with the story, feel free to click here.

The allegations against Rabbi Skolnick are disturbing. According to allegations he posed as a 14 year old girl online. He is accused of using this fake profile to befriend at least one 14 year old boy and get this boy to send him nude pictures of himself. Once Rabbi Skolnick had these pictures, he (allegedly) threatened the boy by telling him that if the boy did not send more pictures, the pictures that the boy had already sent would be made public.

There are a few important takeaways that we need to take from this case:

1. Nothing Online is Private

This is something that not only do we need to teach our children, but we ourselves also need to recognize. Nothing online is private. Anything we send online has the potential to be made public. We can never be sure who is at the other end of the message we sent. We don’t know who might find a lost phone. We never know if someone is peeking over a shoulder.

Someone might even be viewing a snapchat in one hand while recording it with a camera in the other hand.

If you don’t want it to become public, don’t send it via sms, mms or any other digital or online method.

Maybe you will want to take it one step further. Assume that anything you send online will one day become public.

2. Avoid the Quicksand
Let me explain what I mean. You do something wrong. You know you might get into trouble for it. Don’t do something even worse in an attempt to avoid getting into trouble for the smaller infraction.

AND IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU ARE BEING BLACKMAILED, DO NOT DO SOMETHING THAT WILL GIVE THE BLACKMAILER MORE AMMUNITION!

I have heard about children online being blackmailed into sending pictures long before I heard of Rabbi Skolnick. Sometimes the blackmailer has actual pictures, sometimes they bluff. Nevertheless, one (child or adult) should never give something that can be used against them when being blackmailed.

How Parents Should Approach the Subject with their Children
The issue that I am hearing from parents is a legitimate one. How can I discuss these issues with my children? I don’t want to give off the impression to them that I think they are doing the wrong thing online and I don’t want to give off the impression that I am ok with them speaking with girls/boys online.

To people with this concern I suggest that you make these lessons more general.

For example:
 Don’t send an email making fun of a teacher if you don’t want the teacher to ever see it.
 Don’t send a video doing something that will embarrass you if grandma ever saw it.
 Don’t agree to do something wrong/illegal because someone is threatening to harm you (or your reputation) if you don’t.
 If someone is willing to blackmail you because they have something against you, giving them more that they can use against you will only make things worse.

The allegations in the aforementioned case are sickening. Let’s try to use it as a teaching moment.

More importantly, let’s try to make this a teaching moment which protects our children without causing them too much fear, panic, anxiety and distrust.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Did You Properly Identify the Problem?

“True compassion means not only feeling another's pain but also being moved to help relieve it.”
-Daniel Goleman




Tim is walking in the street with his 5 year old daughter. His daughter is holding a large helium balloon that she was given earlier in the day. The balloon is so big and it makes her so happy.

Suddenly, the young girl loses her grip on the balloon. It flies away towards the clouds.

Tears freely flow down this young girl’s face. Cries emanate out of her mouth.

Her balloon is gone and she feels loss.

Loss is not something that she has really felt yet in her young life.

Her crying continues getting louder and louder.

When one wants to help there are two steps one needs to take before assisting.
1. Identify the problem
2. Offer a solution

Most people in this situation would identify the problem as the lost balloon and the solution would be to purchase another balloon (and in a case where a new balloon cannot be purchased, they’d either make a promise or try to fight the feelings of loss).

But the problem isn’t the lost balloon. The problem is the feeling of loss.

Rather than trying to “fix” the problem with a new purchase, fix the problem by showing your child compassion. Allow them to cry. Be there with them. Enable them to share their feelings (yes, even at this age).

Life will present many teaching opportunities, many opportunities to bond with your child. Don’t run away from these opportunities, embrace them.

Not every problem is what it appears.

You can’t properly solve the problem if you’ve misidentified it.

It is more important that we give our children our time, our attention, our listening ear and our compassion than it is to give our children money.

Giving a new balloon would only have pushed the problem to the side, it would not have solved it.

Pushing problems to the side (if it works at all) only works in the short term.

Never forget, kids are a long term investment.

Stop using short term interventions on long term investments.


Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Ignore the Hindsight

“It is easy to be wise after the event.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle





Something very out of the ordinary caught my eye while walking home this morning.

Police were gathered around a car.

I’ve seen police gather around cars before, but never like this.

This time, bystanders were allowed to be near the car. That means they weren’t concerned about a bomb.

As I got to the car, I saw what the concern was.

In the back seat, there was a car seat that was completely covered by a baby blanket.

No one was sure whether or not there was a baby under this blanket.

Police had someone come with tools to open the car.

They got the car opened and checked the car seat, only to discover that it was empty.

Everyone was relieved.

Everyone except one of the police officers.

He started doubting whether he made the correct move in calling for the car to be opened.

This got me to think about how we think and how we parent.

When we make a decision, we can only base it upon the information we have at that moment. We should not let hindsight dictate whether or not our decision was the right decision. We should also not let hindsight dictate whether we criticize our children for their decision.

There is the famous story about the boy who cries wolf. The people all believe him the first time, a few believe him the second time, and no one believes him thereafter.

This applies to our own decision making process. Imagine that this police officer is yet again presented with an identical scenario, and once again he calls for the car to be opened and there is no child inside. Do you think he will call for someone to open the car if this situation presents itself a third time? Would you make the call if the previous two times there was no baby inside?

Rather than judging whether we made the correct choice based upon the result, we need to judge based upon the information given to us at the time.

If we judge, and if we get our children to judge, based upon the available information at the time, there will be no hesitation as to whether to take action.

This is extremely difficult, especially as we live in a results based world. But in order to give ourselves and our children the tools to make smart decisions, we need to help them with their decision making process. One of the ways to do this is by helping them realize that we judge our decisions based upon what we knew at the time and not by what we learned thereafter.


Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.

To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Challenge the Question

“Everything we know has its origins in questions. Questions, we might say, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings.”
— Neil Postman



Children are taught from a young age to answer questions. Tests are filled with questions that they must answer. Conversations start with questions.

Children are also taught to ask questions. They are encouraged to explore their creativity. To ask why and try to figure out the answer.

While children are taught to ask and taught to answer, there is one main thing they are never taught.

Challenge the question.

Allow me to explain. When I was about 11 years old, I was watching a news show on Nickelodeon. The show was hosted by Linda Ellerbee and she first showed her panel (of children) two news stories. The first news story was about a crime that was videoed by a bystander. The guilty were able to be caught since the bystander took a video. The bystander who took the video was considered a hero. The second story was about a man who went out on his porch with his video camera and recorded a couple in their apartment having sex. This man who videoed was considered a criminal.

Linda asked the children: “So is videotaping good or bad?”

Some of the children explained why it was bad while the rest explained why it was good.

Yet no one attacked the question.

The question was being used to force the child into an all-or-nothing type choice. It wasn’t a fair question. Like many things if used properly it can be beneficial, yet if used incorrectly it can be harmful.

If we want to really enable out children to become better thinkers and less susceptible to certain manipulation tactics, children need to be taught the following about questions and answers.

There are two types of questions and there are two types of answers.

There are questions that are asked because the one asking wants an answer and there are questions that are asked because the one asking is trying to make a point.

There are answers that attempt to answer the question and there are answers that attempt to destroy the question.

Each of these have a time and place, but they can only be used if one is aware of their existence.


Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn Here
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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Understanding Community Grooming

“Sometimes we want to believe something so badly that we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.”
― Aaron B. Powell, Doomsday Diaries III: Luke the Protector





Mary wanted to buy an expensive diamond necklace. Mary had two choices. She could go to the new store that had only been opened for a few weeks, or she could go to the store that Mr. Adams has owned and operated for the past 15 years.

Knowing that she doesn’t know much about diamonds, Mary felt more comfortable going to the store of Mr. Adams. After all, there is good reason why he has been running his shop as long as he has.

Mary found something she liked and she paid $15,000 for her gorgeous new diamond necklace.

After a few weeks, Mary decided that she should probably get this necklace insured. The insurance agent told Mary that she needed to get this piece appraised. Mary was shocked when she was told that not a single diamond on this necklace was real! They were all cubic zirconia!

Not wanting to believe this shocking news. Mary found another appraiser, one not affiliated with her insurance, who told her the same thing.

Filled with a combination of disappointment and anger, Mary went back to the jewelry store where she bought the necklace.

Mr. Adams denied that he sold her anything other that pure diamonds. When she showed him the appraisal and the necklace, he accused her of giving a different necklace to the appraiser.

Mary then started telling people that Mr. Adams conned her.

Mr. Adams sued Mary for slander.

Previous clients of Mr. Adams had their jewelry appraised and when the report came back that they had diamonds, they admonished Mary for trying to destroy Mr. Adams’ life.

Mary couldn’t prove that the necklace she had was the exact one that was sold to her by Mr. Adams and Mr. Adams’ 15 years of honest business was being used as proof that Mary was a liar.

Had this happened at the other store, the new store, Mary would be believed. However, this was an accusation against the store that has such a sterling reputation, thus it was ignored.

Why am I talking about a jewelry store?

Because the script is identical for those who sexually abuse a child.

If someone really wants to swindle someone and get away with it, they will spend time and years making sure that they develop a solid reputation. A reputation that cannot be destroyed by a single accusation.

Just like all those sales of real diamonds doesn’t prove that Mary is lying when she says she was sold a fake, other children saying that they weren’t abused by the accused doesn’t mean that the victim was not abused by the accused.

Just like victims get groomed, family and communities also get groomed.

Some abusers spend YEARS grooming not only their victims, but their families and the entire community as well. 

Sadly, the only way that Mary will be believed is if other people accuse the jeweler of similar tactics.

Sadly, in the current state of our community, victims will only be believed once more victims step forward.




Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To contact Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at yisroel@ympicker.com

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Stages of Grooming

“It's important to talk about it. You raise awareness. But you can also prevent it (child abuse) by not letting it be a secret.”

-Chris Witty







One of my first articles that I wrote was called Know Your Enemy. In that article I wrote about how people who sexually abuse children usually fall into one of two categories: Situational and Preferential.



In this article, I plan on discussing Preferential abusers and one of the main ways they select their victims, through a method known as grooming.



What is “grooming”?

Grooming is an exploitative process which acts as preparation for sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

Grooming develops an emotional connection with a child and helps to:

• Gain the child’s trust

• Create opportunities to abuse

• Reduce the risk of detection

• Increase vulnerability of the child

• Increase the child’s compliance



There are seven stages of the grooming process (Please note: every case is different, in some cases one or more of these stages might be skipped)

1.     Getting access to children - Abuser places themselves in a position where they have access to children

2.    Targeting the victim - Abuser will gauge which children are the ones most capable of being abused without getting the abuser into trouble e.g.

a.    Finding a child or children that has a vulnerability that can be exploited by the abuser. Or

b.    Is there a child who wouldn’t be believed if they ever reported abuse? Is there a child who wouldn’t be allowed to come forward with a claim of abuse?

3.    Gaining trust e.g.

a.     Befriending the child

b.     Learning about his/her interests, being helpful, showering the child with gifts and attention, or sharing secrets

                                               i.          Included within “sharing secrets” is allowing the child to do things that their parents do not allow (e.g. smoking a cigarette, drinking beer, watching certain types of movies etc.) which can later be used against the child.

These behaviors are used to give the child the impression there is a loving and exclusive relationship between them and the would-be offender.

The perpetrator portrays themself as a non-threatening individual with whom the child can talk and spend time with. During this step, the offender adjusts his or her strategies based on the age of the child they are targeting, the needs of the child, and the child’s perceived vulnerabilities.

4.    Filling a need e.g. Perpetrators utilize tactics such as giving money/gifts, flattery, and meeting other basic needs of the potential victim. Tactics may also include increased attention and affection towards the targeted child.

5.    Isolation  - The grooming sex offender uses the developing special relationship with the child to create situations in which they are alone together. This isolation further reinforces a special bond between the abuser and the potential victim.

6.    Sexual Stage: Desensitizing the Child - Once there is sufficient emotional dependence and trust, the abuser progressively sexualizes the relationship. Desensitization occurs through:


a.    Talking about sex and/or private areas on the body.


b.    Sharing pornographic videos and/or pictures.


c.     Creating situations in which both offender and victim are naked.


d.    Seemingly accidental touch or innocent behaviors, which then escalate to more intimate touching. e.g. the child molester may first give the child hugs or pats on the back, and then gradually escalate to wrestling, tickling, or back massages and the eventual sexual contact. Other tactics include playing hide and seek in the dark, playing strip poker, drying a child off with a towel, massaging an injury, playing physical games etc.


At this point, the adult exploits a child’s natural curiosity, using feelings of stimulation to advance the sexuality of the relationship.


7.    Controlling the Child and the Situation: Once sexual abuse is occurring, abusers will commonly use secrecy, blame, and threats to maintain the child’s participation and continued silence.

Perpetrators use various types of emotional manipulation. One specific method used is convincing the child that the child would be the one in trouble if the abuse or “shared secret” (as mentioned above in 3b) becomes known.



Why is it important for adults to learn about grooming?

Short answer: Because we shouldn’t expect kids to stop it on their own.

By the time the grooming process reaches the sexual stage, it is nearly impossible for a deliberately selected and groomed child to avoid the sexual abuse.



Therefore, it is the job of the adults in the child’s life to recognize the warning signs and put a stop to the relationship while still in the initial stages.



The child will not be happy that you are separating them from the person who gives them attention and gifts, and that’s okay.



Better your child be angry at you for intervening before the groomer shows their true colors versus your child being angry at you for turning a blind eye and allowing the grooming and abuse to proceed.






Yisroel Picker is a Social W​​orker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.

You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Child Abusers and All-or-Nothing Thinking


“No person is completely wicked, just as no person is perfect. We are all grey”

― Sweety Shinde





You’re either successful or you’re worthless. You’re smart or you’re stupid. You’re a writer or you’re an artist. Your life is wonderful or it’s terrible. Something is right or it’s wrong. These are examples of all-or-nothing type thinking (also called black-and-white thinking).

For example, a person suffering from all-or-nothing type thinking might struggle with a single question during a long job interview. Despite the interview only being 5% bad (only struggling on a single question), they will say the interview was a bad interview.


This is a negative thinking pattern that's common in people with panic disorder, depression, or other anxiety-related issues. It is also not all that uncommon amongst people without the previous mentioned issues.


Recently, I am noticing a new trend with all-or-nothing type thinking. In the past, all-or-nothing type thinking was used more by people judging themselves (e.g. I am a success/I am a failure). Now it is being used more as a way of people viewing both other individuals, and the world at large.


For example, Jessica knows that she disagrees with her Governor on the topics of traffic cameras, the death penalty and increasing minimum wage. Jessica now hears her Governor’s thoughts on fracking. Despite the fact that Jessica knows zero about fracking, she instinctively disagrees with him. In Jessica’s mind, the Governor is always wrong.

Jessica has “all-or-nothing”ed the Governor.


Example #2: Cooper is against any type of gun control. Cooper has recently discovered a radio show where the host shares Cooper’s beliefs against any government action infringing on the rights of gun owners. Cooper likes this radio host and starts believing every single thing the host opinionates, solely due to the fact that they share an identical belief when it comes to gun control.

Things don’t need to be black or white, most things are shades of gray.

One can agree with a Liberal on one issue and a Conservative on another issue.

Agreeing on one single issue doesn’t mean that one subscribes to all of their beliefs.

Groomers (those abusers who use a technique known as “grooming” as a way to get their victims) know about this “all-or-nothing” type thinking, and they exploit it for their advantage.


The first thing that groomers do is they try to give off the impression that they are righteous and upstanding individuals. They will volunteer their time and their money to assist those in need.

They do this so that community members will be like Cooper in the second example. Just as Cooper took this one shared belief and expanded it across the board, likewise communities often view groomers as “righteous and upstanding” due to their volunteerism, and expand it across the board (i.e. he can’t be an abuser, look how much of an upstanding individual he is!).

The second thing that groomers do is they attempt to select victims who will not get them, the abuser, into trouble. One way of doing this is by selecting a victim who lacks believability within the community. Just like Jessica in the first example immediately dismissed what the Governor had to say about fracking, the community will immediately dismiss what this victim has to say about their abuse and their abuser.

Couple the two examples together and you have yourself someone who has mastered the art of grooming.

There is another flaw within all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to abusers. People mistakenly believe that an abuser not abusing a specific child or children is proof that he hasn’t abused any other child. The fact that ten out of the eleven boys in the karate class insist that their teacher never abused them does not mean that the eleventh boy is automatically lying.

If we want to start believing victims and stop protecting abusers, one of the things we must do, on both an individual level as well as a communal one, is to stop this poisonous all-or-nothing type thinking.


Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.

You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
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