Let’s talk about “Till It Happens to You”

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For those of you that know me, I am truly passionate about trauma therapy.  My specialty is my work with sexual assault survivors and combat veterans.  I am watching the Academy Awards and am particularly moved by Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens To You” from the movie “The Hunting Ground.”  I am moved to blog for several reasons. Number 1: Why haven’t I heard of this movie until now?!  I can’t wait to see it and I WILL seek it out.  It’s such an important subject and must be placed in the hands of mainstream entertainment so the topic can be discussed as a mainstream topic.  I looked up some statistics to make it more evident why the issue of sexual assault IS a mainstream issue.

According to RAINN ((Rape, Incest, Abuse, National, Network)

  • Every 107 seconds, another sexual assault occurs
  • There is an average of 293,000 instances (victims age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
  • 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
  • 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
  • About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33— have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. From 1995-2010, 9% of rape and sexual assault victims were male. 78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.
  • 1 out of every 6 American womenhas been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization, 2010,National Crime Victimization Survey:

  • In 2010 there were 188,380 reports of rape and/or sexual assault in the United States.
  • More than half of rape and sexual assault crimes take place between 6pm and 6am.
  • Females are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault (182,000) than males (40,000).
  • Most victims of rape or sexual assault are females younger than 24 years of age.
  • Most rapes committed against women are committed by an intimate partner (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend) or someone else they know (friend, family member, acquaintance).

These numbers are focused on the American population. But sexual assault is blind of nationality, race, and gender (although it was long believed only women were sexually assaulted).  What this means is we all need to be aware that it is happening and unfortunately continues to happen.  Also, it is crucial that we understand, sexual assault happens MOST often in familiar environments.  According to the above statistics most assailants are KNOWN by their victims.  This leads me to another reason why I need to blog. Number 2: It is a great time to educate what is sexual assault? And what do we need to know about it? Here are 2 definitions I like the most:

According to the US Dept. of Justice: Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition ofsexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

According to RAINN: Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.

My Definition: Sexual Assault is a crime of power in which the victim is violated by any type of sexual behavior without his or her explicit consent.

I can go further in my definition, leading me to reason number 3 of why to comment now: The violation can lead to arrested development, altering the ability to establish and maintain healthy and adaptive relationships, and can KILL a survivor slowly over time. With that definition it is pertinent to understand the role of social education and why a film such as “The Hunting Ground” and having a power house such as Lady Gaga perform “Till It Happens To You,” is important for mainstream society.  It will hopefully open communication about how to protect ourselves from becoming a statistic but also offer support to survivors.  In my experience as a clinician the second tier traumatizing that survivors experiencing in lack of support for survivors is a major factor in not helping victims. Making sexual assault a mainstream issue will hopefully help end victim blaming and ostracizing.  Sexual assault treatment is imperative in helping victims work through the traumas they have survived and go from “surviving” to “thriving” in their personal lives.  With support and validation and competent treatment sexual assault victims can become survivors and with this film and song we will talk about it for what it is:  A real crime occurring every 1minute 47seconds in America that needs to STOP and give meaning to the word “NO.” Where victimize stop being further victimized by being blamed and have their crime minimized and overlooked.

 

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Friendship Blooms and I AM Grateful

I was going through Facebooks wonderful “memories” collage that it has for every day and yesterday and was greeted with smiles and the reminders of friendships that will shape my day and week. From photos of my amazing nephew smiling to 3 of my dearest friends and our families sharing special moments. (I should have known God was prepared me when the night before a picture of my other close girlfriend’s kiddos popped up as they strolled with my hubby on our shared family vacation). But what happened prepared me for the last memory. One of the darkest times in my family’s history. My brother’s fall from a 24′ high scaffold. The memory was one I had made one year after his fall thanking God for his survival.   Now 5 years later I’m reminded how I survived. With the love of FRIENDS. Mentally and emotionally it was my friends that strengthened me daily in one of my times of greatest fear and agony and sadness. It remind me of a quote I posted week ago:

Friendship blooms from faith, love and respect built by two hearts that come close to each other with a feeling that they can share their joys and sorrows throughout their life.

God has blessed me with these types of friends in my life.  Clearly God had been preparing me for yesterday this entire week. Everyday I am thinking of THEM but yesterday and today I am thanking them. You know who you are…I know who you are. And I am grateful to call you Friend and Framily. Thank you for visiting us in the hospital, taking my newborn so I could sit by his side, feeding our family, praying with us, crying with us, being present for his visit with our priest, spending time with us in the weeks and months post his fall, reminding us all there is life after his fall, and being with us every step of the way until today. I am forever grateful!

The right friends, real friends are so critical in aiding us through our darker moments; helping us navigate our mental and emotional ills. I asses a persons support system in the first hour I sit with them because I know they can be walking sticks towards the journey to healing. I KNOW MINE HAVE AND I THANK YOU!

Who do you have in your life to be thankful for? What do you have to be thankful for?  Oftentimes the things that are most important we overlook in our natural coming and goings. Today, slow down hopefully you have at least one Friend to thank. At least one person to share both your joys and sorrows; to walk with you.

I was going through Facebooks wonderful “memories” collage that it has for every day and yesterday and was greeted with smiles and the reminders of friendships that will shape my day and week. From photos of my amazing nephew smiling to 3 of my dearest friends and our families sharing special moments. (I should have known God was prepared me when the night before a picture of my other close girlfriend’s kiddos popped up as they strolled with my hubby on our shared family vacation). But what happened prepared me for the last memory. One of the darkest times in my family’s history. My brother’s fall from a 24′ high scaffold. The memory was one I had made one year after his fall thanking God for his survival.   Now 5 years later I’m reminded how I survived. With the love of FRIENDS. Mentally and emotionally it was my friends that strengthened me daily in one of my times of greatest fear and agony and sadness. It remind me of a quote I posted week ago:

Friendship blooms from faith, love and respect built by two hearts that come close to each other with a feeling that they can share their joys and sorrows throughout their life.

God has blessed me with these types of friends in my life.  Clearly God had been preparing me for yesterday this entire week. Everyday I am thinking of THEM but yesterday and today I am thanking them. You know who you are…I know who you are. And I am grateful to call you Friend and Framily. Thank you for visiting us in the hospital, taking my newborn so I could sit by his side, feeding our family, praying with us, crying with us, being present for his visit with our priest, spending time with us in the weeks and months post his fall, reminding us all there is life after his fall, and being with us every step of the way until today. I am forever grateful!

The right friends, real friends are so critical in aiding us through our darker moments; helping us navigate our mental and emotional ills. I asses a persons support system in the first hour I sit with them because I know they can be walking sticks towards the journey to healing. I KNOW MINE HAVE AND I THANK YOU!

Who do you have in your life to be thankful for? What do you have to be thankful for?  Oftentimes the things that are most important we overlook in our natural coming and goings. Today, slow down hopefully you have at least one Friend to thank. At least one person to share both your joys and sorrows; to walk with you.

Have You Learned to Love?

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https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1027215600669743&id=386149218109721

What this couple says in the video above is very true!  Loving your partner the way they need to be loved is important.  It’s easier to do when things are going well but harder when relationships experience snags or either partner is personally struggling (depression, work stress, fatigue, etc).

When you wake and throughout the day, take a  moment to assess, “am I loving [insert their name] like they need and want to be loved?”  Especially do this during the more difficult times and/or when your partner is experiencing their own internal struggle.  It will make a difference.

Connecting to the Silence Within

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“When you connect to the silence within you, that’s when you can make sense of the going on around you” Stephen Richards

Read this quote this week and found it’s relevance in what I do and what I believe is part of our life’s journey.  One of  the goals of internal connection is internal and external peace and awareness.  A key part of growth and change is learning what the problem is and what our part in it is.  Connecting with our internal selves requires us to pay attention to what our internal voice is or isn’t saying.  When we listen and connect, it’s then the world around will begin to make sense.  We will begin to understand our role in relationships with others.  With awareness of what’s going around us  our choices can be more adaptive and healthier.

Remembering Robin Williams: Becoming Aware of the Risk Factors for Suicide

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A year ago today, Robin Williams committed suicide. I applaud the efforts to remember him and his life, as he was a funny comedian, a great actor, loved by his friends, and adored by his family. He was not afraid of politically charged issues and often worked tirelessly to bring light and conversation to many controversial issues, particularly depression and substance abuse.

With his suicide, he has posthumously brought a greater awareness to suicide itself. He gave IT a face and a human side. Suicide, or the risk of suicide, is often over looked. In men especially, its warning signs, if present raise the risk of a successful attempt significantly.

RISK factors include but are not limited too:
Male, over age 18, substance abuse involved, prior attempts, giving things of significance away, plan, medication changes, access to a gun, significant occupational or social changes,  hallucinations or delusions, and grief

Some of these signs are subtle. Males, and particularly Black males (can discuss that more later), are at high risk if exhibiting these warning signs. A person who is suicidal can not simply be “talked out of suicide” but needs to be in a safe place as they process their thoughts and often times receive medication to help balance their mood.

If a loved one is suffering from suicidal ideation contact a professional for help. Refer to the national suicide hotlines for immediate guidance (see below) if you do not have anyone to talk to or call your local hospital. Many landlines can help you find treatment in your county by dialing 211.  Remember suicide is not 100% preventable as it involves human will.  Do what you can and seek your own treatment if needed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish
Website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

One of Many Hats We Wear

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This blog is not intended to discount the many hats a man wears but its about women and my own personal journey.

As mothers we wear so many hats. I have been trying to be aware of my own and those of my patients. I have come up with some themes.

The first seems like the BIGGEST and it seems all women wear it. It’s  that of caretaker. For me, that immediately speaks to my role as a mother. But I am aware that for those women without children they too wear this “caretaking” hat tightly. WE are continuously thinking of the needs of others. “What are our children eating for dinner (ironically mom’s often FORGET to eat or are so busy they lose their appetite)?” “Have we let the dogs out or do we need to schedule things differently to accommodate a pet?” “Is our girlfriend needing a pick me up or call to check on them (we’ll make time for them during a 10m break but we’ll hold our pee for hours to “get things done” without interruption)?” “What needs to get done at work?” Sure we can work 60 hour weeks on top of all other responsibilities. “What does our partner need or want?” Sure we’ll have sex with a headache on 2 hours of sleep.  There’s many more things we do to care for our loved ones and often they involve sacrifice on our part. 

This isn’t all the time bad but I’m learning I DON’T HAVE TO NOR SHOULD I wear this hat 24h 7d a week.  If you wear a hat all the time your hair grows in a certain pattern that is hard to break and change. I need to take it off to let me growth pattern change. What needs to change? I’m finding I need to sit back and enjoy when someone takes care of me. And most of all I need to care take myself. MAYBE it’s ok to put the kids to bed early without reading to them occasionally, it won’t negatively impact their learning (I’m still working on the guilt associated with this choice). I need to not ALWAYS think of work, family, and friends first but me. Alone time is good. The house cleaning will be there. I need to buy myself nice things and the money I spend on me is better spent than the money I’d have spent on that Nerf Bow and Arrow that wil inevitably get lost or broken and he’ll lose interest in.

I mention taking of the hat but don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THIS HAT. It is the most comfortable and most worn hat that I wear. BUT What I am aware of is that while “I WEAR IT WELL” it’s not my only hat and I MUST take it off occasionally. This is a challenge but if we can rise to the challenge for others all the time can’t we rise to the challenge for ourselves sometimes?!

Don’t Give Up

Sometimes, the things we think we CAN NOT DO, WE CAN.  Just don’t give up. 

The accomplishment that comes with conquering what you thought you couldn’t is an amazing boost in self esteem and self confidence.  While you are “in the trenches”, you may wonder how you got there and what you’re doing.  But, don’t stop.  Maybe you need to change your approach, take it in pieces, focus on the end goal, or even take a break and start again.  But, don’t turn around! Don’t go back down! Don’t quit! Sometimes it doesn’t matter when you reach the finish line but that you finish.  

Yesterday, I didn’t give up on a mountain bike climb I thought I couldn’t make.  My body was shaking.  My mind was tired and my heart racing.  But, I pushed on and I finished…far behind the leader.  And guess what…I can and will do it again because now I KNOW I  can. 

What can you do today?

Positive Self Image and the Body Image Movement

How do we teach young girls to be happy with their bodies? 

This is an important question to me as one who works with teenage patients that are struggling with this very issue.  However, I also have some very personal reasons as well.  One, I, too, have had episodic struggles with body image issues.  Today, I am “comfortable in my skin.”  Two, I have a daughter and I don’t want to pass negative self talk or body image problems down the line to her.  Given this, I believe that the following video is so on point. 

It starts with us loving our bodies first and finding adjectives to describe ourselves positively.  I believe she is on to something, psychologically.  It’s not about about losing the weight, it is about how we think about ourselves and feel internally.  You can lose weight and still feel big and it’s not enough.  So where do we begin?  It begins with what we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Negative self talk breeds negative self image.  Start with the conscious effort to talk positively about yourself and demand that of others.  

I am going to continue this journey more consciously and I can wait to see where it takes me.  My adjective is “curvy”.  This is my positive.  Tell me your yours.  Post them in the comments section and keep me posted on your journey.

Friendship

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Friendships bloom from faith, love, and respect built by two hearts that come close to each other with a feeling that they can share their joys and sorrows throughout their life.

When any of these three things (faith, love, respect) are damaged, the friendship needs help.  First of all, realize that very rarely is it just one person’s fault.  Take a moment to assess your own responsibility before pointing a finger.

  • What was your part in the damage that was done?  And, don’t just look at the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • What happened along the way?
  • What didn’t you say or do?
  • What did you say or do?
  • What boundaries did you not set or fail to uphold?  Take a step back.
  • What can you do differently?

It’s easy to be mad at our friends and expect them to acknowledge your pain but you can’t ask for what you can’t give.

It is also reasonable to expect that a real friend should do the same.  But, maybe they need help, understanding, and/or patience.  We all handle our sorrows and joys differently.

Real friendship is the sharing of joys AND sorrows.  And, sometimes just as the joys often happen together, so do the sorrows.  Take a little time and maybe some much needed space to assess how these things can be rebuilt and shared.  Be honest with yourself maybe they can’t.  Maybe the friendship has run its course and is no longer healthy.  OR, maybe it will take a little help.  Quite possibly, it could be even healthier if you can share your sorrows with your real friend and move forward.

Sometimes the path to fulfillment in relationship is not always easy, but always worth the journey.