Category Archives: Relationships & Personal Growth

What we can take away from Penn State, child sex abuse cases

A few years ago I was sitting in a temple prep class (it’s a Mormon thing) when the man giving the lesson told us the story of his childhood. He had been raped and sexually abused. At the end of his story he told the small group that when he walks into a room and speaks to people, he can tell which of the others in the group had also been sexually abused as a child.

I felt like he was looking right at me.

Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t. I don’t know that I’ve really kept it a secret the last few years, but I’ve never publically announced it. I’m getting ready to, however. Not because I feel like I’ve been holding this deep dark secret, but because I feel like my story helps others.

The recent news of football coaches and other authorities at Penn State covering up, or covering their eyes, to child rape and sex abuse has others coming out to tell their stories.

(And just because I really need to throw my opinion in here: I think the focus should be on Mike McQueary and not Joe Paterno, who should never hold a position of authority again. How he could WATCH a child being raped and not immediately stop it. To make matters worse, he waited till the next day to tell anyone, and it wasn’t even the police. I don’t care what the laws say or how terrified the man was of losing his job – he is one of the many people responsible for allowing child sex abuse to continue. Every person involved should feel ashamed and disgusted with himself or herself. There is nothing more precious in this world than our children. If you allow them to be abused by monsters, realize how you are shaping our future. And I hope Sandusky rots in hell.)

In light of the news, Goldie Taylor decided to tell her story on CNN of how she was raped by a teacher at her high school. She had never said it publicly. Based on her comments, I feel that she may have been ashamed and felt guilty for what had happened to her. I sympathize with her completely. I’ve been there.

But I don’t fully agree with everything she said last night.

goldie taylor tells her story

I was sexually abused as a child. In a book I am writing about the dangers of allowing children to come in contact with pornography, I open with my story. It’s a story that may greatly upset those close to me and those who always wondered what skeletons I was hiding in my closet. Don’t we all have them?

But I have learned from sharing my story with individuals, that it brings them a sense of hope. I am not victim. I am not a survivor. I am a warrior. I can choose to “cope” or I can forge ahead passionately and make something incredible of my life.

I made mistakes, lots of them, as a young adult dealing with the pain of being abused as a child. But I chose to leave it behind me. In fact, after counseling, I no longer feel that aching pain inside when I think of the things that happened to me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my abusers.

I chose to forgive them for their choices, and I chose to forgive myself for the mistakes I made afterward. It has made me stronger. It has made me a fighter. It has made me a better and more alert parent.

Maybe there are days when I see the childlike Jennifer pushing through, making me scared and vulnerable. And I embrace that part of me because it makes me human, realistic and more willing to accept faults in others.

I still make mistakes. I’m still untrusting in relationships. Some days I am still afraid to let a man get too close. But I control my future. No one holds me back except myself. And that I have full control over. I strive every day to be a better person, mother and worker.

You can, too. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes hold you back.


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Penn State: It’s all about football

Penn State and Joe Paterno

Photo Courtesy of The Sports Net

This is a guest post from my good friend Jason Smith who is a husband, father and advocate of freedom and truth. He resides in Hurricane, Utah. This was meant as an opinion piece for St. George News, which is currently being updated and will be posted on that site soon, as well.

Yesterday, Penn State played a game without Joe Paterno on the sidelines for the first time in over 40 years; and lost.

Players from both teams knelt in prayer before the game.  Over 107,903 fans (the largest of the year) packed the stadium and cheered for Penn State University, the football team, and for Joe Paterno’s legacy.

But what about the victims?

Somewhere there are at least eight boys (young men now) who lost their innocence, and in some ways their lives, amid the roar of those 107,903 fans, Penn State University, and the legacy of Joe Paterno.

There should never have been a game.

The football field should have had eight white roses on the 50-yard line in a completely empty stadium.

We saw players and fans talking about Joe Paterno, many wearing shirts in support of “JoePa”. We saw teary-eyed coaches speak of the man and his legacy.

But who will speak for the victims?

All I can think about is eight boys who will never watch a Penn State football game – because they can’t and they won’t. All I can think about is a living-hell locker room that at least two boys lived through and will never forget.

Penn State’s new president said the following: “We wanted to demonstrate, not just in the Penn State community but to rest of world, that Penn State is a caring community”  – Translation: “We wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world, that Penn State is all about football- that’s why we played today” 

Yesterday Penn State played a football game after at least three key members of the coaching staff, and a minimum of three high-level administrators covered up child rapes.

Yesterday Penn State showed the world what is important to Penn State – a winning football team.

Ironically, having a winning football team at all costs is why eight boys will struggle with depression, anger, hatred and dysfunction for their entire lives.

Yesterday Penn State played a football game while eight young men are struggling to understand why football and the power that comes with it are more important than their innocence and lives.

Yesterday Penn State continued the cycle of abuse.



Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Family, Relationships & Personal Growth


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The gift that could save your life

gift of fear

A dozen years ago, when I was serving as a security forces officer (cop) in the Air Force, one of my sergeants told me I needed to read Gavin De Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” I read it so many times that the library on base made me purchase the book because I wore it out – I’m grateful they did. It remains one of my favorites on my bookshelf.

Some call it intuition, gut instinct, spiritual guidance (around here also known as the Holy Ghost), etc. But regardless, it is a powerful tool that should never be ignored.

We talked about this on the Perspectives Morning Show on Fox News this week and callers shared their stories of how following that prompting in their tummy kept them from making a horrible mistake, or even saved them from death. I, too, have many stories of how following that instinct saved me, and how not following it brought severe consequences; some as recent as last month.

I urge you to read the book and in the meantime, here are some of the “messengers of intuition” you should never ignore:

nagging feelings
persistent thoughts
gut feelings

And here are some of the reasons why you should never ignore them:

Forced Teaming: A person pretends you have something in common, you are in the same predicament and you must join together to overcome the problem. This is to establish premature trust.

Charm & Niceness: Someone is overly polite, overly helpful. This is done to manipulate you. You will feel bad for turning down their assistance because “they are just being nice.”

Too many details: An FBI agent learned this lesson the hard way after murdering a woman who was a witness, and his mistress. During the interview with other FBI agents, he began to babble, offering details that normally were not important. He was making them up, hoping that excessive detail would make him sound credible and honest. It is what gave him away to the other trained professionals investigating her murder.

Typecasting: When a man calls a woman a “prude” or a “snob” or some other critical name, she may be eager to prove him wrong. That’s what a criminal is betting on. If someone, especially someone you don’t know, calls you names because you didn’t appreciate his words or actions, don’t bother stepping up to play his game. Simply say, “Yes, I am,” and walk away. You don’t have to be seen as a saint to everyone.

Loan Sharking: Giving unsolicited help, and then expecting favors in return. I am reluctant, and almost always decline, assistance from men. Life is hard and sometimes we all need an extra hand, but only take it from those you trust and know well. Often, what is expected in return is something you are not willing to do. Criminals will take it from you anyway.

The Unsolicited Promise: A promise to do, or not do something when you did not ask for a promise. A “I won’t hurt you,” means that stranger is probably soon going to hurt you. I recently received a string of communication from someone and they all ended or started with “I will never bother you again.” I knew instantly this person meant to continue to bother me. Kerry learned this lesson when a man said, “I’ll just put these bags in your door and I’ll go – I promise.” That man broke his promise, as well, and she was almost murdered.

Discounting the Word “No”: Someone who refuses to accept rejection. Women who have been asked out have probably been through this often. A man asks you out, you politely respond no; he might then joke, tease, continue to ask or ask you out different ways. Eventually, he may get angry, belittle you and threaten you. He may then spread rumors about you and try to get others to believe things that aren’t true. I rejected a date request from a man, then ignored his phone calls. A month later, a mutual friend called to say he had heard that I had thrown myself at this man and had been to visit him at his cabin many times. I know I’ve never been to this man’s cabin, so I didn’t think twice about it.

(Note: men in all parts of the world are statistically more violent than women. Thus the above was gender specific. However, it can and does go both ways. Men need to be just as careful as women. I have met women stalkers who can’t let their ex’s go, and they are just as scary.)


Posted by on September 16, 2011 in In Jen's Opinion, Relationships & Personal Growth


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What I Learned From Dating a Hunter

Photo by Klint

Growing up in Idaho, I have known many hunters – the guys who went out a couple times a year, but namely on that big two-week deer hunt that they got so riled up about months in advance. They would wait impatiently to find out which of their buddies and family members pulled a tag. And then only one of them would have a tag, and all of them would go out for the big trip.

I learned after dating a “real” hunter that these were called “kitchen pass” hunters. Real hunters go out every weekend, and if they got off work during daylight hours, they went out during the week, too. They scouted their prey for months at a time. Once they helped one group of friends bag em, tag em and take em home, they went out hunting with their next group. After hunting season, then comes the shed hunt.

And if you think hunting season ever ends, you are dead wrong. There may be a few weeks in the summer when your guy finally comes home, but that’s just because he is hunting his girl now – making up for the last year or kissing up for the upcoming year.

Hunting is serious business. They are very competitive and extremely territorial. And don’t even think about tagging along with “real” hunters. They don’t want a gal slowing them down. I could have been the best hunter in the world, but I assure you that my guy would have just felt like I was a competitor. When he comes home he wants to feel like I am proud of him, not that I’ve just beaten him at his favorite game. Oh no, he made it clear from day one he does not like dating girls who hunt.

Well luckily for us both, I like deer and elk meat and I sure as heck like to shoot, but you won’t find me out in the cold in the dead of winter. Just like I don’t want him reading over my shoulder when I write or when I am asking questions when I’m interviewing someone. And I sure wouldn’t want him in the studio while I was on air, but I did feel proud that he listened to the show while at work.

Dating a hunter is also serious business and it’s not for every one. I realized very quickly that I am not a gal who does well dating a man who is never home. But he taught me some very important lessons.

One night as I prepped my bubble bath and grabbed my books for my nightly relaxing ritual, he commented: “Just because you had a bad childhood doesn’t mean you need someone to fix you.”

It was a compliment of sorts. He meant that he liked me just fine and he didn’t think my endless supply of educational and self-help books were necessary. It also meant that, just as I don’t understand his obsession with going out seven nights a week staring at deer with a bunch of drunken friends, he doesn’t understand my need for continually learning and improving in an area he thought I had mastered. He liked me the way I was. It’s quite sweet if you look at it from a girl’s point of view. He also taught me to accept myself the way I was, which was also quite sweet.

But here is what I learned from dating a “real” hunter. Whatever it is you are striving for (knowledge, weight loss, becoming a better parent, getting out of debt, getting the career you deserve) it is serious business and it takes hard work. Usually, daily effort.

I think we are accustomed to looking for the easy way out. We want to take the path well traveled, mapped out and known to show instant results and if it has GPA coordinates, even better.

But life simply isn’t that way. And I’ve learned from men that no one appreciates what they get for free. You hang onto the things you worked hard to achieve.

As Dr. Phil said, relationships may be built in Heaven, but they are managed here on Earth. Our lives are also managed here on Earth, where we must work hard to achieve our goals, and manage them realistically but with hope and desire. And we often must do them alone with the help of our loved ones. Just as hunters go in a pack, only one of them can shoot that deer.

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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Relationships & Personal Growth


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Being In Love, And Being Yourself In Love

I was sitting at a table recently with two longtime friends and a third person I had just met that day. We were catching up and chatting like old friends, and then it was down to business: I had a story to do. I asked my straightforward questions and got right to the point.

Sometimes when conducting an interview, I make it so easy to chat that I end up hearing people’s life stories. They feel like they’re talking to an old friend and after they’ve said too much, they’ll remember they are with a reporter and I’ll get the “Oh but please don’t print that last part.”

I nod in understanding thinking “Yeah, no way would I want someone to say that about me. No worries.” Sometimes there are things that just don’t belong in a story. And the No. 1 rule of thumb I stand by as a journalist: Get the truth without burning your sources.

As a journalist you ask the easy questions first, save the hard ones for last in case they are so upset by it that they tell you the interview is over. At least you have something instead of just a story with one quote: “No comment.”

But I’ve known these “sources” for quite a long time. They know that when they say something is “Off the Record,” it really is off the record. So when I ask questions, we get right to it. Sometimes my voice is harsh and accusatory and the questions aren’t easy. Sometimes it’s friendly and I laugh along the way.

As we finished the interview, the third person said: “You aren’t going to print … are you?”

I looked at him like he had lost his mind. “Of course not! That’s not even relevant to the story.”

Then I realized he didn’t know me. And then, to get to the point of this whole blog, a conversation I had with my dear friend Joyce the weekend before came to the forefront of my mind.

“I married Joe because I could be myself around him,” she said.

I realized that I am completely myself in front of these particular friends. As we started talking about a particular relationship, I dropped the reporter mode and went into “Happy Jen,” “Fun Jen,” “Joking Jen” and then even “Defensive, Plea-ful Jen” as I explained why I am doing something as they raised their eyebrows and asked “Really Jen?”

I’m myself. And comfortable.

When I’m hanging out with Corry, it’s the same way. I am completely myself.

And that made me realize that I’ve NEVER been in a relationship where I was myself.

Granted I finally got to the point where I could wear no make up, wake up in the morning without having brushed my teeth yet or showered, no wig, etc and felt completely beautiful anyway with the person I was dating.

That has happened once.

I’m grateful for feeling that way. It means a lot to me that someone makes me feel beautiful and I feel beautiful around them 24 hours a day. But I want what Joyce has. I want to BE myself all the time.

I think that may have something to do with the person you are dating, but I also think it might have something to do with how you see yourself. It is now my quest.

I was recently told: “Just be yourself.”

Now how to do that?

Any thoughts on how to BE yourself in a relationship? I could use some pointers!

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Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Relationships & Personal Growth


Realizing You Were Wrong: A Humbling Experience

Have you ever been in a relationship where you worried constantly about the other person’s reaction?

If you wanted to go out with your friends, did you worry he’d get mad and accuse you of not being considerate of what he wants? Maybe you bought something and were worried about telling him how much it costs? Maybe you felt like you were trying hard, but no matter what you did it just wasn’t enough?

“I constantly felt like I was walking on egg shells,” I was told last week.

My initial response was shock.

“YOU felt like YOU were walking on egg shells?” I thought in horror and disbelief.

His statement was made in the course of a heartfelt conversation where we talked about what had happened to our relationship over the last year. We had both been hurt. We had both been angry. We had both been fed up. But only one of us had constantly walked away from the other instead of staying to talk through it.

“Love doesn’t run,” as is said in one of my favorite songs.

But I had made a habit of running.

Oh yeah, he had done things to help facilitate that running. My friends could and often did list them off for me one by one. Boy did he make me angry over that year; but this blog isn’t about his faults, it’s about mine.

What a humbling experience to realize you are wrong. To realize, after a year, that I needed to take at the very, VERY least 50 percent, if not 60 percent, of the blame. To realize that I had been hurting him, too. To realize that although his definition of showing love was not the same as mine, I had been discounting the things he had been doing.

That was quite the moment of self-discovery for me.

I’d get angry over a behavior that I didn’t agree with. He’d try to talk it out. I’d leave. We’d get back together. That happened more times than I think I want to admit.

I look back at the things that made me angry, and they were valid. But how I could leave someone who I loved so much that breaking up felt like I was being burned alive.  It was literally painful, but I’d keep doing it.

Whether or not we are meant to be together or apart isn’t the question I need to be asking. Instead: Why is Jen feeling that the only way to protect herself is to be the first to run?

I realized I was being the “Unavailable” one and that I was stuck in this routine of hurting him to protect myself. It’s not only a cruel, horrible thing to do; it’s very unhealthy.

So this week I have begun Baggage Reclaims “Getting Out of Stuck.” I don’t owe it to him to get behind this problem and fix it; I owe it to me. And what an added bonus it will be for him or anyone to not have to walk on eggshells and for me to realize, Hey, this wasn’t all his fault. In fact, it was mostly mine.

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Posted by on June 9, 2011 in Relationships & Personal Growth


In the Name of Love

“The greatest act of loving another person is letting go and wishing for their happiness regardless of satisfying you.”

How ironic that I would see that on Baggage Reclaims Twitter today.

I have been holding onto a great deal of anger against a specific someone lately and when he tried to apologize yesterday I ended up getting angrier and, well, biting his head off as if I was praying mantis. I wouldn’t have minded shoving the knife a little deeper in his heart and explaining in great detail all the reasons I never wanted to hear from him again but I knew keeping it short and sweet was even more painful. Yep, I stopped and thought about how I could hurt someone the most – and then acted on it.

And about 12 hours later I felt horrible. Completely horrible.

I can be blunt and I can be rude and I can rip someone’s heart out, but I don’t intentionally try to make him or her feel worse while I’m doing it. If someone screws up, I call him or her out on it. But what they may not realize is that I am usually holding back many more comments that are going through my head but I don’t allow to come out my mouth. (Scary to think that I can be even meaner than you think I am, I know)

But yesterday I didn’t hold back. And then I had to apologize. Ugh that sucked. And I allowed him to explain his reasoning for his actions, which I then countered (nicely) that those still don’t excuse the behavior, but thank your explaining the other side of the story. I explained that what I needed was simply no contact. That I had moved on and that for my own reasons I could not remain friends with this person. But, I wished him the best and true happiness wherever it is that he may find it. And I even meant it.

How many times do we go about trying to control a situation or a person for our own satisfaction? Whether it’s chasing after an ex because we think they are perfect for us and vice versa, or maybe it’s lying about something because we don’t want to face the music for our actions (thereby taking away someone else’s right to make their own choices because they don’t have all the facts).

What happened to love? In both these situations we are not loving the other person. We are trying to control them. We are trying to force the outcome of their life (even if we think we have good intentions) by telling ourselves that we know what is best for them. Or maybe we think it’s best for us so screw what is best for them.

Real love means being willing to let go. It means full disclosure. It means no lying. It means no cheating. It means walking away when someone tells us no.

When people cheat and then lie about it, they are doing it because they don’t want to face the consequences of their actions. Then they tell themselves it was just one time and it won’t happen again so there is no need to tell their partner. Here they are taking away their partner’s choices. If you love them, you need to be willing to tell the truth and allow them to make whatever choice with it that they feel is best for them. When we drink too much alcohol and blame the cheating on that, we are lying to ourselves and them. I know for a fact it is possible to get completely wasted and stay faithful to your partner even if they are out of town and you are surrounded by many good looking and willing people.

When we chase after someone, we are not only making fools of ourselves and showing that we have no respect for ourselves, we are saying we don’t have respect for them. You don’t truly love someone if you can’t respect their decisions.

When we allow someone to use us, we again don’t respect ourselves or them. Do you really respect someone that was willing to take off their clothes for a one-night stand – even if you’ve had “multiple one night stands” with them? Do you respect yourself or them if you are so willing to take off your clothes when the opportunity arises?

The problem for most women is we equate sex with love. Most men equate sex with sex. Just because he sleeps with you doesn’t mean he loves you and sure as heck doesn’t mean the relationship is getting mended or that he wants to be in a relationship with you. And if you really loved him, you wouldn’t allow him to participate in self-destructive behavior with you.

For all those out there who say they are doing XYZ in the name of love, you may want to strongly consider what your definition of love is.


Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Relationships & Personal Growth

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