Friday, December 2, 2016

Privileged Language and the Use of the Word "Entitled"

Let me talk about the word “entitled” for a bit.  It is a word that gets thrown around a lot when people talk about poor, oppressed, marginalized, and homeless persons who are attempting to get their needs met in a lot of ways.  I googled the word and here is what I found:

1.    believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
"his pompous, entitled attitude"

After reading that definition I thought it would be helpful to also have the definition for the word “inherent.”

1.    existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.
"any form of mountaineering has its inherent dangers"
intrinsicinnateimmanentbuilt-in, indwelling, inborningraineddeep-rootedMore
o    LAW
vested in (someone) as a right or privilege.
"the president's inherent foreign affairs power"

In reading these  I am led to the conclusion that a person who feels entitled believes that there is something that has been granted to them either by birth or investment that makes them deserving of special privileges. 
Do people who are homeless, oppressed, or marginalized in other ways have special privileges that have been endowed on them by society?  Or are they just struggling to gain a place of equity when they appear to be demanding of the attention of service providers? 
I like this image that shows the difference between equality and equity –

If the person on our right asked the person on the left for their box would you refer to them as feeling “entitled?”  If the person demanded the box, would you call them “entitled?”  If you say yes, then I would ask you to consider what privileges you have that you hold on to so tightly that you can’t recognize that someone actually needs to be able to see over the fence and that your privilege is keeping them from doing so. 
When we refer to people as feeling “entitled” we are often stating that our status quo is more important than others feeling like they live in an equitable society.
As the holidays start to come around, you will see a number of marginalized people struggling to get as much as they can from the various non-profits, charitable organizations and churches that provide gifts and food throughout the season.  It may seem that they feel “entitled” to everything they can get.  Maybe, just maybe, though, they feel that this generous outpouring from the community is the best time to stock up because they are certain that they will be without the things they need in the coming year.  Maybe, just maybe, they are seeing the same advertisements and depictions of prosperous families that we do and are trying to create something that resembles what they think the rest of the world has. 
If you have a home to go to, a bed of your own to sleep in, a regular paycheck, the ability to purchase gifts for your own children instead of taking whatever has been picked out for you by others, the knowledge that your table will have not only enough food for everyone but enough for leftovers, and there are people in your life who support you, then you are seen as the lucky ones.  You are seen as someone who has been entitled with privileges of which others only dream.  When you refer to a marginalized person, someone who is living on the edges of society in a shelter or below the poverty line, as feeling “entitled” you are forgetting that they would love to have those things to which you feel entitled.  However, they have been led to believe that they are not deserving of those things because every time they reach for the box so they can see over the fence, the fence gets higher and their box gets lower.
Remember, language is a powerful thing and if you find yourself referring to marginalized and oppressed people in negative terms, you become a part of the problem, not the solution.    

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Traumatic Brain Injury - A Piece of the Puzzle Often Gets Overlooked

I came across an article in the New Yorker recently that stressed the importance of assessing for traumatic brain injury in victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  This is also an advocacy issue.  With approximately 50 percent of victims being strangled in some point of their relationship it is imperative that we ask the questions about a possible history of strangulation and advocate for victims with the medical community to assess for possible brain injury.  We often become focused on the current issues or assume that a person's actions and behaviors are related to something else that we fail to ask simple questions that could rule out a possible brain injury or prevent further damage from failure to address an injury.  

"Such women would have been labelled 'difficult' in the recent past,  The police may dismiss them as being drunk, the state’s attorney may think they have mental illness.… Even the medical profession may dismiss them as being overdramatic. We have been able to intervene on their behalf to help other agencies understand that it is the T.B.I. that is causing some of these behaviors and symptoms.” NO VISIBLE BRUISES: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY



Domestic violence and sexual assault advocates can do a simple screening to determine if further assistance may be needed. 

A brief screening tool that was designed to be used by professionals who are not TBI experts is the HELPS.2
HELPS is an acronym for the most important questions to ask:
H = Were you hit in the head?
E = Did you seek emergency room treatment?
L = Did you lose consciousness? (Not everyone who suffers a TBI loses consciousness.)
P = Are you having problems with concentration and memory?
S = Did you experience sickness or other physical problems following the injury?
If you suspect a victim has a brain injury, or she answers “yes” to any of these questions, help her get an evaluation by a medical or neuropsychological professional – especially if she has suffered repeated brain injuries, which may decrease her ability to recover and increase her risk of death. If she wishes, reach out to the TBI service provider with information about DV, what support she needs, and what services are available to her. Look for ways to work together.

The National Brain Injury Association has links to the TBI associations in each state:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Insidious Traumatization – How Recent Events are a Call to Self Care

Over the past months we have been exposed to a large amount of hate speech.  We have also seen a number of reports of poor to dismal responses to sexual assault and domestic violence.  I won’t go into those in detail.  They fill our inboxes, Facebook feeds, newspapers, and news channels.  The images fill our brains or we create our own images based on the details we are given.  We become angry at the way people do not seem to take the allegations seriously and how systems and persons continue to find ways to re-victimize.  We lose hope in our ability to make and sustain change.  We are reminded of our own victimization(s) and we start to feel helpless and hopeless.
Our response to the ongoing exposure to the victimization of others is the result of insidious trauma, often called “micro-aggressions.”  According to Laura S. Brown in her book, Cultural Competence in Trauma Therapy, “in the lives of many individuals who are members of target groups, daily existence is replete with reminders of the potential for traumatization and the absence of safety.”  These micro-aggressions can often seem fairly benign such as when a group is ridiculed in a public way or when one’s group is betrayed in a stereotypical way.  However, when a person is targeted in a violent way through hate speech, threats, invalidation of or disbelief in their experience and this is made public the impact on other members of the group can be significant. 
Laura Brown goes on to quote Root (1992) as arguing that “when a person is subjected to insidious traumatization, that individual experiences a gradual and often imperceptible erosion of the psyche.  A useful metaphor is that of very small drops of acid falling on a stone.  Each drop by itself does little damage and may in fact etch the stone in such a way as to make it more beautiful.  Thus, in some ways the experience of daily micro-aggression may evoke resilient coping responses (as when we find positive strategies to address the ongoing violence against the groups of which we are members).  Yet each drop of emotional acid creates just enough damage to render the next drop more damaging.  Over time a fissure develops in the form of an emotional vulnerability that is invisible so long as certain aspects of the biopsychosocial and spiritual environment remain steady or supportive.” (italics mine)
This insidious trauma can create conditions in us similar to those to whom the significant aggressions are directly applied.  When it is combined with the effects of previous trauma that we have experienced and are now re-living it damages the psyche and makes us weary. 
Our only hope is to surround ourselves with others who understand what this type of trauma can do to a person and find ways to care and nurture each other as we continue to face the onslaught of further violence against groups to which we belong or have a strong affinity.  We may, at times, need to take a break in order to be able to come back in support of victims, but it is by filling our cup that we are able to have enough to help others. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Personal Essay by S.R. Cyr with Book Review of Nothing But My Voice by Donna Buiso

I wanted someone who had actually experienced what this book talks about to review this book.  Ms. Cyr was happy to do so and I thank her for taking the time.
S. R. Cyr has been a social justice as well as a child safety advocate since the birth of her first child in 1996.  
Ms. Cyr’s volunteer work as an advocate led her to obtain her BA in ‘Women and Gender Studies’ in 2013. Ms. Cyr’s ten-year plus experience – in and out of family court - has re-directed her advocacy toward promoting community education on the effects of childhood trauma and has inspired her to become an active proponent of ‘trauma sensitize’ learning environments as well as medial environments.
Are You Brave Enough To Listen? by S. R. Cyr
I belong to a tribe of warriors that no one from outside that tribe will ever talk about. I know their names – and they know mine - but we’ve never met face- to-face.
This tribe I speak of consists of female warriors. However, my tribe are not just female warriors, but, female warriors denied “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Our kinship validates our existence as we walk invisible amongst you.
You may wonder what brought us strangers together. Why would hundreds -possibly thousands of women - band together  and support each other?
Here is my answer: we are united in the fact that through no fault of our own, we have been left with nothing but our voice. We have been left childless, financially disabled, heart-broken, hopeless, shell-shocked, numb, disabled with PTSD, and alone. We speak but no one hears us. We cry but no one wipes out tears. We scream but our screams go unheard. We go through the motions of life but we feel as if we are in quicksand.
Some well-intentioned people attempt to comfort us with assurance that everything will be just fine, but, it never is.
Imagine being deprived of an active role in the nurturing, loving, and fostering of a young child into young adulthood? Assuring us all will be ‘fine’ is a cue that you are not truly listening.
How can one mourn the death of a relationship that people insist has opportunity to be?? If I could ask the well-meaning people one thing, it would be this: please, stop telling me that my children will “come back.” Because truth-be-told, there is a good chance they may not.
And, even if they did, they will not be the children I once knew: trauma has a way of changing people for life.
Let me introduce you to the newest member of my tribe; her name is Donna Buiso. She – like me-  through several years of family court procedures – was stripped of all parental rights.
I purchased Ms. Busio’s memoir hoping to find the answer to the question that every mother deprived of time spent with children wants to know: do the children ever come back? Do the children deprived of their biological mother ever come to really know their mother??
If you want to find out that answer, I highly recommend purchasing Donna’s book.
As so poignantly written within the forward of Donna Buiso’s book, Nothing But MyVoice, “This is a book that requires action. Action to change and rectify a system that allows the continued unconscionable abuse of mothers. These injustices must be corrected for the sake of all emotionally abused mothers, their emotionally abused children, and for the welfare of society at large {David P. Hayes, Ph.D.}.”
Donna Busio’s depiction of her life with an emotionally abusive ex-husband can be triggering for anyone who has lived this kind of hell.
Psychological warfare is the only way to describe what it is like to co-parent with an abusive ex-partner. Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public often forget that emotional, verbal, financial, and judicial abuse fall within the spectrum of domestic abuse.
Imagine being court ordered to stand back and watch your own child suffer at the hands of a person who uses verbal, emotional and psychological tactics to get their adults needs met? Adults who choose to file for sole custody and refuse to allow your child to be with you: imagine?
I bought Ms. Busio’s book because I was also stripped of parental rights, decision making power, and a visitation schedule. I was court ordered to sit back and watch as my teens were raised in a home environment that – in my opinion- lacked supervision, compassion, and authentic love.
I had to endure phone calls, emails, and text messages from my teenage daughter asking me, “where is dad taking me?”
I later found out that one of her father’s tactics for controlling her behavior was to threaten her with being “dropped off somewhere” because he could no longer “handle her.” When she begged and pleaded to live with me- her mother that raised her the first12 years of her life-  her dad would respond, “anywhere but with your mother.”
Even today, as I re-count these events, I go numb. Admittedly, as I read Donna Buiso’s depiction of her own children’s torture, I was triggered.
I cannot fathom how a human – especially an adult- could be so cruel toward a child.
How can any human – parent or probate judge- deny a child their biological mother?
Donna ends her book with the words, “My voice is my strength. It’s all I have left. I will continue to use it, not just for myself but for the children and for all of the mothers who find themselves fighting to protect their family in court.”   
Ms. Buiso has spoken. And so has hundreds and thousands of other mothers throughout the US as we warriors write incessantly to our local and national political leaders as well as to major network television studios.
We warriors have been left with nothing but our voices. For decades now, we have proven to be beyond brave for articulating our pain.

What remains to be seen is this: Are you brave enough to listen?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reading Recommendations = February 22, 2016

I have an idea for a blog post running around in my brain but also dealing with heavy brain fog due to to a flu bug that took over my life for a week.  So here are some things to read while you wait.  AND take care of yourself.  Remember, if you get sick and go to work, you infect others and you end up being sick even longer.

Looking through the lens of trauma in a number of settings:

If you are looking for a response for those folks who feel that TANF recipients should be drug tested in order to received benefits, this does a great job of breaking it down:

A guide for talking to people about their experiences and the effects of trauma (includes video of advocate talking to survivor):

A view of addiction as a response to childhood suffering:

An interesting piece on how survivors use lying as a way to survive and some strategies to move on from this survival skill:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is an investigative journalist who likes to embed himself in a situation to delve into the intricacies of a situation or experience.  In Missoula, Mr. Krakauer goes to Missoula, Montana to investigate the many systems and personalities that become involved when a rape allegation is made on a college campus.  I have heard interviews with Mr. Krakauer and he has stated that Missoula is not atypical.  He did not pick Missoula because it was different but because it was so similar to other college towns across the nation.
Jon does not leave any stone unturned in telling the stories of rape allegations in this college town that treats its football players as celebrities and heroes, granting the players a sense of entitlement that extends to the women who attend the college.  Mr. Krakauer interviews victims and family members and has access to interviews with the alleged rapists.  He also delves into the criminal justice system and campus investigative process and delineates how the allegations are handled differently in each setting. He is also explicitly describes the judicial process and how defense attorneys and prosecutors are often so concerned with winning that the victims and perpetrators often become pawns in the process, leaving victims to experience more trauma during and after the plea and/or trial process.
Jon Krakauer researched the impact of trauma on victims and is able to incorporate the work of Judith Herman, a clinical professor at Harvard and author of Trauma and Recovery, an important work on interpersonal violence and the trauma that occurs.  David Lisak, an expert on serial rapists and college sexual assault, is an expert witness for one of the trials in Missoula and Mr. Krakauer pulls from his research and expert testimony in order to describe the intricacies of understanding sexual assault.

Jon Krakauer’s greatest message in this book is that the refusal to hold perpetrators accountable is their greatest weapon and the justice systems’ greatest failure. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reading Recommendations and Resources - Week of January 11, 2016

A lot of information came out this past week.  There should be something below for everyone including advocates, educators, and survivors.

Three information sheets from the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network for working with children and families affected by trauma.

Children with Traumatic Separation:

Sharing Power to Engage Children and Families:

Sharing Power - A Tool for Reflection

An article on traumatic brain injury and domestic violence:

An Education Writers' Association article  on how trauma affects a students ability to engage in the classroom.  If you read through the article you will find a link to a powerpoint that has some additional information.  I like this because of how it also discuss trauma's intersection with race and poverty.

Here is an article on boundaries that could be used in a support group:

An excellent article from the Joyful Heart Foundation on managing vicarious trauma and being kind to one's self.