For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Keeping It in the Family

Tuesday, Rod Dreher, writer for the American Conservative, ran my blog posts concerning Facebook safety. I took time to read some of the replies. According to some, it is I and those like me who discuss the risk of identity theft, physical theft, murder, and sexual assault among other potential crimes outside the home that allow sexual abuse by family members to occur. It is the focus on stranger danger that prevents people from being properly suspect of family members.

While I think that line of thinking suffers horribly from tunnel-vision, it is a topic that needs to be addressed, and since then, I've been considering how to address it.

If I were talking to a group of children, how would I tell them that someone in their family--an uncle, grandfather, aunt, grandmother, brother, dad, or mom--might try to sexually abuse them? What would I tell them to watch for? What indicators would I give these kids that are warning signs?

How would I tell these souls that I hope are still innocent and trusting that the very people they trust could be monsters who want to hurt them in ways they can't imagine?

What I told my children:
NO ONE has a right to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If anyone tells you not to tell your Daddy or me something they did or asked you to do, please tell us because that person is probably doing something they know they shouldn't or you shouldn't, and we need to talk to them.
Keeping secrets about birthday parties and Christmas gifts was okay, but you never have to keep secrets about anything that makes you feel bad.
If someone tells you to do some
thing Daddy and I said not to do, don't do it and please tell us about it.

I never put a defined group of people in the mix. It wasn't so much stranger danger as it was reality that some people are just evil and manipulative. Honestly, we had to protect our children as much from our parents who had total disregard for us as our children's authority and flat told our children to lie to us and retaliated for not being given free reign with our kids after blatantly attacking our values and  said lovely things like, "When you realize your parents don't really love you, you can come live with me."

Sure strangers concerned me, but I realized that "harming a child" didn't just come from molestation, sexual abuse, or physical abuse. I have seen far too many people who were never "inappropriately touched" who had all kinds of psychological scars from parents and family members who demeaned, controlled, manipulated, and neglected.

I've seen too many adults still trying to figure out how to create a healthy family after growing up in a home where one parent used the children against the other.
I've seen too many adults trying to find some kind of value in themselves because some parent, teacher, pastor, family member, or friend of the family said something that ripped that person's heart and esteem right out.
I've seen people far more damaged by the people who should have protected them than by people who never had a name.

The idea that I perpetuate or allow family abuse of any kind by pointing out how to prevent other abuse and trauma is absurd to me. However, I think these people have a point. Abuse of all kinds is far more pervasive within the family than out. I think they are incorrect about the idea that discussing other kinds of abuse gives it freedom to run amuck. What gives it freedom to run amuck is the denial that it happens at all.

What gives abuse of any kind the freedom to run amuck within the family
 is the denial it happens at all.

In The Philadelphia Story, Uncle Willy is "a pincher". Everyone knows it. Everyone knows it is offensive. Everyone knows Uncle Willy should keep his hands off women's butts. People even talk about it, some with simple acknowledgement, some with disgust. This is what I want to know? Why didn't anyone talk to Uncle Willy? Why didn't one of those women have the gumption to turn around, slap his arrogant face, and tell him to keep his hands the hell off her butt? Why didn't one of the men cold cock him and tell him a rich predator is still a predator whether he is touching on the outside of clothes, under clothes, or in an orifice?

Uncle Willy wasn't a pincher because the police were busy catching rapists. Uncle Willy was a pincher because no one in the family said no to being pinched.

In real life, maybe it isn't pinchers. Maybe it is someone who makes "boobs and butts" comments. In my family, there was this thing during family get togethers where the uncles made comments about the "butts or boobs" of growing nieces. The parents said nothing. The ladies said nothing. Finally, one day one of my uncles made a comment about how college had made my butt bigger, and I turned and said something like, "Do you have any idea how stinking warped it is that you even look at my butt? I mean, it's not enough that you're married and looking at some strangers butt. Nope. You're married looking at MY butt. That is freaking sick."

The room went silent. I never heard another butt comment.

Someone in the family has got to say this is sick and warped! Someone has got to say enough is enough! Someone has got to risk pissing off everybody who would rather live in warped silence than healthy honesty.
It only stops when someone refuses to let it continue.

Another reason abuse within families happens and continues is because those who are supposed to protect fail at their post. I have had conversations with several people who were sexually assaulted by family members. Events ranged from touching to penetration. I rarely hear anyone say they were assaulted only once. When it is in the family, it tends to be repetitive and go on for years.

Of the people I know who endured such abuse and told someone, only one adult actually defended that child and removed her from the abusers reach. Did you get that? ONE.

The others who told?

A few were simply called liars and told this stalwart of integrity would never do such a thing. One was actually beaten for making up such a lie. Another told me, they found out later, the mom who had called them a liar had actually been abused by the same person.

The ones who were believed were told:
--Forget it happened.
--The abuser really didn't mean it.
--If they told, it would make the other parent mad.
--One was told just to give it time. The grandparent was old and would die soon, and it wouldn't matter.
--Several were angry because it put them in an awkward position and if they tried to talk to that person all it would do is make that person mad at the adult for bringing it up.
--One who was sexually abused by her mother told her dad who said if she told, people would think she was sick and a freak and wouldn't want anything to do with her, they might even put her in the hospital because she was sick.
--A common response was that they had somehow caused it and deserved it.
--Really, we don't want to create bad feelings and mess up our happy family, do we?

Once again, it isn't warning about the predators outside the house that allows this abuse to go on for years. It's those who should be protecting and could be protecting who aren't who allow it to continue.

Personally, I think if an adult knows about the abuse and does nothing, they are as much of an abuser as the one acting it out. Those who don't tell are acting out of selfishness. They are protecting their comfort zones, their financial statuses, their acceptance. They are sacrificing these children and young people to protect their own lives, and that is criminal. At best, it is negligence and association to a crime.

While we can argue culpability all day long, the real issue is the abuse--whether it be sexual, physical, mental, or emotional. How does it stop?


It stops when someone says, "I'd rather live the right way without you than the wrong way with you.".

It stops when someone has the courage to realize their family is made up of people, some of whom may not be nice and good.
It stops when that person has the courage to say, "You have the right not to live in fear, guilt, or shame caused by what someone else says or does. I choose to believe you. I choose to defend you. No matter what it costs me."

Domestic abuse of any form is not perpetuated or allowed because someone acknowledges there are those outside the family who will do harm if they are allowed to do so. Domestic abuse happens when people within the family live in denial that even people they love can do evil things and don't stand up and say no when those people carry out those acts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Facebook Safety--Children of All Ages

I considered putting the topic of children into my last blog post. However, it is such an important topic because we are discussing an entire population of people at the mercy of their parents' decisions. I say "at the mercy of" because it is very disturbing how careless parents are with their children's information on Facebook. Understand, I am not saying parents are bad. I think a lot of parents simply don't realize how easily their children can become victims.

For instance, it is easy to find out names, ages, and birthdays of children. Just check that timeline and the events list.

It is also easy to find out hobbies, afterschool activities, little league, and so on. I can figure out a child's routine, where they will be, and how vulnerable that child will be based on what the parents say.

Do you know from that information I can also determine how crowded the area would be? In fact, I could scope it out to see if there were any unprotected areas like trees and to determine the likelihood of getting a child alone for an extended period of time. Remember, predators don't have to kidnap a child to molest them, and they don't need an hour. And really, let's be honest, those conversation starved moms who take their kids to the park and sit at a table while the Little Folk go closely are they watching? Are they watching closely enough to keep Little Folk away from the cars where someone might be sitting and waiting with a bar of candy or that person sitting quietly on the bench who suddenly needs help finding his lost puppy? And after all, that predator called Little Folk by name because he knows what little folk looks like because Momma or Daddy posts so many pictures of him/her.

Moms, before you think I'm hating on you, I have been one of you. Had entire conversations without ever looking at the women I was talking to because we all had our eyes on the playground. I'm telling you how predators think. They will use ANYTHING they see as weakness and capitalize on it to accomplish their goal.

Unfortunately, the danger doesn't stop when the kids get older. Parents are great at putting their high school and college age kids on parade, and in some cases, give a roadmap to their child's door.

Have you see the pictures of GirlChild's new car? The one with the license plate. Or what about the fact GirlChild is off to college, and they are so excited because she got into (namethat) Dorm, just like she wanted? And, y'all, pray for her. She's coming home this weekend but driving in late.

Let me tell you what the wrong person can do with that information.

License plates are traceable, but even if they weren't, I know where to start watching for GirlChild because I know the dorm she is in. I also know what she'll be driving because parent (usually Mom) just told me, and I know she's driving late at night when not many folks are on the road. She'll be by herself, AND, if I don't want to risk being seen at her school, I can probably figure out the road she'll take home. I just have to find the right place to sit, watch, and be patient.

As for BoyChild who got that nice firearm he went hunting with dad with, good picture of his pickup. I'm guessing he leaves that firearm in the pickup either for self-protection or just to feel big. If I look, I can probably see for sure, and you won't believe how fast I can break a window, open a door, and take off with whatever is in that pickup that I want. And if you think you are going to chase me down, remember, I've got your firearm. Confronting me might not be in your best interest.

It really is that easy, and I'm not just paranoid. People think this way.

I've been asked why anyone would "target me". Simple. You let them.

Criminals are very self-centered, don't have remorse or guilt, and believe anyone stupid enough to be an easy victim deserves it. It is really that simple. So don't be an easy victim, and don't make your kids easy victims either.

Don't use their real names.
People who know you know your children's names. Make up something. One friend of mine uses her kids initial of their first name. Another has DD (dear daughter) and DS (dear son). One friend has S1, S2, D1, and D2. I use totally different names for my kids. And if your kids get on Facebook, consider letting them pick a fake name. They can look up their friends or tell their friends how to find them. Family can find them, but strangers and predators will find it harder. I would love to tell you it's impossible, but it's not. Just make it as hard as you can.

Don't tell birthdays.

Don't show license tags on cars ever, not your kids' not yours.

If you are going to talk about kids' hobbies and activities, make sure your timeline information is locked down to the greatest degree possible.

In photos, control who is able to see them by adjusting the setting by them.

If you are going to tag photos of other people's children, lock the pictures down so only those people can see it and not everyone on their friends list or the people who might see if their friends comment.

If you talk about your child's college, either lock it down so only friends can see or don't be so specific about schedules and dorms.

If your child is on Facebook, check his/her safety settings as well. It can still be a problem if you lock down who can see your timeline but tag the Young'n whose timeline is wide-open for anyone to see.

Here are some really simple guidelines.

If I am a predator I need to know the following:
Where? The place to find your child.
When? When the child will be there.
Who? Your child's name and what he/she looks like.
How? How easy it would be to take him/her or at least get him/her alone long enough to do whatever I want to do.

As parents, our job is to do our best to make sure that information never gets into the hands of someone who would hurt our kids. We can do that.

Blessings of safety to you and yours.


copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Monday, July 28, 2014

General Facebook Safety

In my last post, I discussed how easily personal information can be picked up off Facebook and used by criminals. In this post, I want to tell you some ways to protect yourself.

Let’s start at the beginning and work our way through the settings, privacy, and so on.

The Password:
Change it regularly.
Pick something no one can guess.
Don’t use children’s names, birthplaces, favorite dog’s name, etc.
Use numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols when you can
Be careful typing or texting it where people can see. People can see over your shoulder on buses, sitting by you at the park, waiting for the kids in the bleachers, at McDonald’s. Anywhere someone is sitting near you, they can see. In fact, they can use binoculars and see, too. So be protective.
If you have to share it due to an emergency (ex. when my husband died and my cousin updated my page for me), change it when the “emergency” time period is over.

Notifications—Get notified if someone is trying to use your account.

Who can see my stuff?—Keep it at "friends". If you put "public", anyone can see it.

Look at all the posts and things you are tagged in.—I know it sounds tedious but take a look. If nothing else, it will tell you what you are telling everyone else and what your connections are releasing to their friends, too.

Who can contact me?—Things to consider:

Everybody—About four years ago a friend of mine I had lost contact with while he was serving our country nearly 20 years ago found me because anyone could find me. I had prayed for him that whole time, and to me, receiving his message on Facebook was a God-gift. There are those.

However, there are people who aren’t your friends and are just looking for a victim.

Friends of friends—People who are friends with friends you knew in high school or college or the place you used to live can find you this way.

However, we don’t know how our friends select people on their friends list or what kind of people their friends really are. The sad fact is, if you look at comments about criminals, a scary percentage are seen as “just a regular person” and “would do anything for anybody”. Or in the case of my neighbor, bring food when we were sick so I didn’t have to go to the store, mow my huge backyard for me while I was off my feet, and check on us during one of our really bad storms to see if we were okay. Great guy…who happens to be a registered offender now. I also want to point out, he wasn’t always a registered sex offender. In fact, as of March 31st, he was just a nice neighbor next door. Just because the people on someone’s friends list isn’t a registered offender or law-defined criminal doesn’t mean anything. It means they haven’t been caught. I’m not being cynical. I’m being real. I’m not saying don’t let friends of friends see you. I’m saying know the risk you are taking.

I also want to mention that ex-spouses and ex-romantic interests and hateful neighbors and just folks who many not like you for some reason who are friends of your friends, can use that window to find you. This is a major point I bring up when I’m speaking to women who are escaping or have escaped and are rebuilding after violent relationships. You have to close every door that someone who would hurt you might use to find you.

Timeline and Tagging:
Who can add things to your timelines and reviewing tags—I review all tags because we attended a church that liked to take pictures, especially of the kids, and tag the parents and name the kids. What that did was allow people to see my children’s faces, names, and know their church. Or, if someone was trolling the church page, they could pick up the kids’ info, then tag over and look at anything available on my page to figure out where we live and our routines to determine vulnerable places and times. And, yes, that sounds paranoid. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

Who can see things on my timeline?—Take the time to view it from others’ perspectives. What can friends see? Friends of friends? Complete strangers? Do you really want them to see what? If not, tighten up your privacy.

How can I manage tags…?—Tags are interesting little things. When someone tags you, you see it, friends of the friend see it, and usually friends of whoever else is tagged can see it, and if they comment, their friends might be able to see it. Suddenly we have a pretty big audience. If you are trying to keep the audience low, review all tags, limit the audience, and don’t let Facebook suggest you for tags that look like you.

Blocking—In the situation I had, I had to block specific people who were direct concerns. I also had to block mutual friends who might aide them in gaining information concerning the children and myself. Remember, no man is an island until him-/herself. Look beyond the first layer for possible threats.

Followers—Again, who do you want to know what? And you may be wondering why anyone would follow you anyway? Because they can.

Photos: Check your pictures for license plates, mail boxes, house numbers, street signs, etc. Either blur them or cut them out. They are all pieces that a predator can use to find you.

If you go to your profile, you can control who sees the information about you. For instance, beside birthday, you can see a lock. Click on it and determine who you want to know that information. This is information I always suggest hiding, but if you like the warm fuzzies of the well-wishing (sometimes it is nice), then at least hide the year. That is a piece of personal information people can use to steal your identity.

Relationships status: I strongly encourage women who are single to keep this hidden. I know. It sounds sexist, but you all know I’m right, too. Sorry.

Work and Education: Don’t make it public or for friends of friends to see. Again, little details that make stealing your identity easier, and in the case of children, strangers can find out just enough to convince the Little Folk they know Mom or Dad and just need to take Little Folk to them, and why would Little Folk doubt anyone who knew Mom or Dad that well?

I won’t go through each section, but remember, your profile is your personal information. It tells who you are and what you do. People with the wrong set of skills and intent can take that information and become you. Anything you don’t want a potential criminal to know should not be there for them to see.
Final thing I want to mention here, have you looked at the message section of the Facebook site? Have you noticed it says “Inbox” and “Other”? The “Other” box fields messages from folks who are not connected to you. If you get a message in that box, there is a simple rule: If you don’t know the person, don’t reply. If you read it, and it strikes you as odd, report it to Facebook.

For instance, I received a message from a man who told me he hoped I was having a great week and hoped the kids are doing great. I didn’t know him, but notice how he knew some personal information? The kids. Seems like he really knows me, right? Let’s think. I’m in the “mid-life” age range and female. I probably have kids, so he could be playing the odds. So if his guess hits and I get that “oh, he cares about my kids” warm fuzzy, and you know, it's one of those days when it's just nice to hear I'm pretty and nice that a man wants to talk to me...Suddenly, I'm the perfect victim because I'm likely to talk about anything and everything, and if he can't anything really big from me then, he still has me hooked because we all know there will be another day like that was just so nice, and he's so cute in that picture by the water on that boat...and it's jus SO nice to have someone to talk to. Yep. Perfect victim because the truth is he was trolling for information about me, OR, he was trolling for information about my kids. In my real scenario, I googled his name and found out there are several women reporting him to Facebook. I joined them.  But, if you don’t want to bother to report him, just delete him. DON’T entertain him.

Contrary to what some people believed, my extended vacation from Facebook had nothing to do with my sense of safety. However, there was a point after my husband died when I felt my children’s protection and privacy had been compromised, and I deactivated, and ultimately deleted, my account. Sometimes it truly is necessary. Most of the time, though, folks can stay safe by making the conscious choice to act wisely.

I don’t ever suggest anyone act or react out of fear. I do suggest people think clearly, be honest about the world we live in, and take the proper steps to protect the valuable people in their lives, including themselves.

Blessings, y’all!


 © 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Friday, July 25, 2014

See Me Now?

I took a three month personal leave from Facebook that lasted nearly four months, and when I typed in my email and password again, I did it begrudgingly. I didn’t want back on Facebook. However, I needed back on Facebook.

Okay, so that might be a bit…misleading. I needed to reopen my account as part of an investigation by an electronics and technology expert my friend who is a police chief uses on high profile cases.

Yes. You read that right. My online presence is being investigated by an expert who works on high profile cases.
In late June we were notified that our next door neighbor was registered as a sex offender. He was serving a 90-day sentence for two counts of sexual assault with a child and two counts of aggravated sexual assault with a child. As I understand it, there were two children involved, two counts each. Yes. That is CHILD. As in under the age of 14.

Honestly, that didn’t throw me much. Registered sex offenders are everywhere. Unregistered sex offenders are even more common. It’s life. I’m not losing sleep over it.

What concerned me, though, were some comments he made when we were talking last fall.

I said something about my quiet time on my patio, and he said, “Oh, I see you. You don’t see me, but I see you. Even when you’re are sleeping, I see you.”

Not sure what he was expecting as a reaction, but I just stared him in the eyes. Sexual predators like to intimidate. I don’t intimidate easily, but I’m not stupid either.

I contacted the police folks I know. None of them knew how to do an electronics sweep, nor did they know whom to ask. I contacted military friends. One of them, who treats my family as his own, texted back to contact a spy shop and found the best one in my area for me.

I also texted my firearms instructor, who served in the Marines, told him the story, and asked if he knew how to get an electronics sweep done of my house. He contacted our mutual friend who is a police chief, who then contacted me and said, “Call (person). He’ll treat you like family. We’ll take care of this.”

As part of the sweep, this man has been investigating my online presence to see if I left any holes that could make the kids or me easy targets. If anyone wants to get information on us, they would have to dig pretty deep, if they found anything at all.

A few months ago I hurt someone’s feeling by deleting her post where she asked about my kids by name. I explained publicly that I do not use their names on Facebook or other media because of issues that arose after their dad died. Most people were very supportive. A few seemed to think I was being overly protective and needed to chill.

So, now that I look a big wiser, let’s review why I take the precautions I do again.

Let me give you an example of what someone can do with Facebook.

I randomly wandered through my friend’s friends lists, and I picked people at random and wandered their pages. If I could, I wandered their friends’ lists. In 9 out of 10 tries, their posts and information were wide open for anyone who wanted it, so I looked. Let me tell you a bit of what I found out.

One young lady in her 20s was married last year. I know where she got married, where she went to college, what she does for a living, and because she posted the picture of her lovely car, I was able to get her address by running the plates. Oh, and I know her husband travels often with this job. In fact, she posts regularly when he is gone. I also know she is anti-firearms, and they have a cat but no dogs.

Does it get any easier than that? I mean, really?

Then I checked my “do you know this person” feed. This is a man I have no contact with, no mutual friends with, but because he is in an area where a cluster of my friends are, he showed up as a “do you know him”. I didn’t, but I do now.

I know he has two sons. Both of which are in little league. I know is dating a lovely lady, and from the posts, it is getting serious. I know where he works, where he went to school, his employment history. I know on Friday nights when he doesn’t have the kids, he and the GF have a particular bar they like to visit and stay at until well after 11:00. I also know he is working on a bike that he is either restoring or fixing in his garage. He posted a picture of it…that also showed the other three that he custom did. Oh, speaking of pictures. His sons are DARLING!!!! And you know what, now that I’ve read through all his check-ins and know his routines and his favorite sports team, I bet if I met one of those precious little guys, I could give them enough information to convince them that I know their daddy really well and something has happened and he needs me to take them to him.

Hit a nerve there? I hope so.

But the one I really liked was the mom who was evidently was trying to make an embarrassing point by posting the pictures of her teenage daughter…in the cheerleader outfit, in her pajamas, in the belly top and daisy dukes, in the tank with the bra showing and the shorts showy her rosy cheeks. Get the picture yet?

Obviously that mother was trying to make a point, and if a sexual predator ran across those, I can promise you a point was made, and do I need to tell you what that predator was doing with that point while he stared at pictures of her teenage baby? Follow me?

Disgusted? Me too. In fact, if I had been friends with that momma, I probably wouldn’t have been when I was done telling her just what I thought of those pictures and the obvious fact her daughter’s lack of maturity and character is clearly directly inherited from her mother. As it was, I couldn’t say anything without seeming…creepy, so I just wandered back to my Facebook page and ventured down someone else’s friends list.

Oh, and by the way, I did all of this—easily more than a dozen accounts—in a few hours.

Let me tell you what I looked for.

Because some days I’m tired of being me and think being someone else might be nice:
Pictures of their cars or houses with address numbers
Phone numbers
Spouse’s name, even ex-spouses or deceased ones
In case I want to drop by…when they aren’t home:
Family members’ pages because they often mention family they are with
GPS check-ins
Work schedules
Any post that mentions a vacation
Anything that gives me an idea of their routine
In case I want to find them, but they aren’t really open to it (i.e. stalking sounds so ugly):
I checked comments by friends and family that might mention them.
I looked for tags in photos from other people’s lists.
I looked for any possible “backdoor” to information on them I could find.
Feeling violated yet? Thinking I took liberties that were not mine to take?
Well, let me fill you in. I didn’t do anything illegal, and I took liberties I had every right to take because these people left them out for me to have. I didn’t break codes or hack anything. I took information that was totally available to ANYONE who wants it. I happened to want it to make a point. Not everyone else is so nice.
Do I have your attention? Good.
In my next post, I’ll tell you some ways to avoid being a star on my posts like this one…or some predator’s easy hit list.

 Until then,
Y’all be safe.

And it's good to see you again. :-)