Kirsty Hopley: “Through a Child’s Eyes”

Photo Credit: Child's Eyes

Link to “Through a Child’s Eyes”

In her guest post for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign (linked above), Kirsty Hopley, co-founder of Child’s Eyes, connects the gender-specific toys, books and media which children see and receive, often from birth, and the heavily sexualized media they ingest. Boys and girls are forced into damaging stereotypes – for example, boys are to be strong and girls are to be sweet – and the sex-saturated messages they receive only reinforce these dangerous, short-sighted representations of what it means to be male and female.

Speaking on the media’s influence on a child’s perception of men and women, Kirsty writes (linked above):

…children see women portrayed on the front of magazines, in music videos, on TV being admired or judged for the way they look. They see men in the same media dressed in clothes being admired or judged for what they do.

Children see media in supermarkets and newsagents screaming gender segregation in the same way as toy and book marketing, yet in a sexual way. Scantily-clad women next to clothed men on most widely circulated tabloids. ‘Big Boob special’ in the men’s section but visible to children, rape on all of the prominent women’s mags and body shaming on the rest.

Men’s media and tabloids contain an abundance of women for sexual pleasure and popular women’s media portrays women as items to be fixed or sensationally reports on the myriad of ways in which women are sexually abused by men.

What we end up with if we, as a society, allow commercialism to dictate gender roles so stringently, is a norm where each gender ‘others’ the other. In ‘other’ words, each side does not view each other as the same type of human with the same feelings. Different, not equal.

Related Posts:

Baby Dolls and Basketballs: the Connection Between Children’s Toys and Violence Against Women

Fighting Sexism in the Toy Department 

When Sexy is All that Matters

Princesses vs. Heroines: Preparing Girls for Real Womanhood

Tough and Tender: Preparing Boys for Real Manhood

A Pornography Society

Pornography and Rape in Primary School

Talking to Your Kids about Sexual Abuse 

Brooke Axtell: “7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault”

"7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault"

“7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault”

Brooke Axtell, an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, gives parents seven simple guidelines for reacting to their child’s assault and how to help their child work through the trauma of sexual violence. She writes (linked above):

As the Founder and Director of Survivor Healing and Empowerment, a healing community for survivors of rape, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, I want you to know that there are many ways you can compassionately support the teen survivor in your life.  44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, so we need to carefully assess the unique needs of young men and women who have endured this trauma. Some of the resources I share will be more applicable to teen girls, but many of these suggestions serve survivors of all gender identities.

Visit WCSAP for helpful webinars on sexual violence, like these: Teen Survivor Support Groups , Identifying and Preventing Suicide in Post-Sexual Assault Care with Youth

FORGE also provides many helpful webinars and resources related to transgender victims of sexual violence. For information specific to transgender survivors, listen to Transgender Youth Survivors.

Related Article: 12 Ways to Support a Survivor of Abuse

For more related articles, visit the Teen Dating Abuse archive.

Katie’s Story: “A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships”

Link to "A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships - From a Survivor of One, Me"

Link to “A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships – From a Survivor of One, Me”

In her open letter to women in abusive relationships, Katie Portman writes:

It’s so subtle that by the time you’ve noticed what’s really going on, it’s too late.  Before you know it, you’re in way over your head wondering what the hell has happened. You become confused, upset, bewildered and terrified. You long for the man you met and don’t recognise the monster he has become.

You hang on to the memories of the man you fell in love with and to any bit of positive, reasonable behaviour as proof that he IS ok. That you will be ok. But deep down in your heart, you know the truth. As did I.

I say this to you because I understand what it is like to love a man whose behaviour is often monsterous. Because I’ve lost count of the amount of times a female friend has said to me, “if any man ever hit me, I’d be out of there like a shot!” Because it infuriates me when people say“why doesn’t she just leave?!” as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

Most people like to think / need to think that abusive relationships are black and white, but they’re not are they? We know that. The abusive men we love or have loved don’t start out hurting us at the beginning nor are they always total monsters. That’s what makes it all so confusing and so hard.

But they are weak. And cowardly. And demanding. They need love and affection in impossible amounts. They are brilliant at crying, at faking emotions and making you feel that somehow their behaviour is all your fault. Experts at manipulation, tyranny and bullying…

Do you feel like you are controlled? I know I did. I certainly remember realising that he did his best to control me, as much as I resisted it. Or perhaps it’s worse. Perhaps you know that you ARE controlled.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How do I know? Well, because I am proof. You can read my story here, if you fancy it. About how a man I loved tried his best to destroy me. It may make you feel less alone. Inspired perhaps. Either way it is my hope that it might bring you some comfort. That you’ll realise that it happens to the best of us.

Childhood Trauma and ADHD

Link to "How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD"

Link to “How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD”

Recent studies have shown a notable similarity between the behavior of children diagnosed with ADHD and the behavior of children living in traumatic and abusive situations:

Though ADHD has been aggressively studied, few researchers have explored the overlap between its symptoms and the effects of chronic stress or experiencing trauma like maltreatment, abuse and violence. To test her hypothesis beyond Baltimore, [Dr. Nicole] Brown analyzed the results of a national survey about the health and well-being of more than 65,000 children.

Brown’s findings, which she presented in May at an annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, revealed that children diagnosed with ADHD also experienced markedly higher levels of poverty, divorce, violence, and family substance abuse. Those who endured four or more adverse childhood events were three times more likely to use ADHD medication.

Interpreting these results is tricky. All of the children may have been correctly diagnosed with ADHD, though that is unlikely. Some researchers argue that the difficulty of parenting a child with behavioral issues might lead to economic hardshipdivorce, and even physical abuse. This is particularly true for parents who themselves have ADHD, similar impulsive behavior or their own history of childhood maltreatment. There is also no convincing evidence that trauma or chronic stress lead to the development of ADHD.

For Brown, who is now a pediatrician at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, the data are cautionary. It’s not evident how trauma influences ADHD diagnosis and management, but it’s clear that some misbehaving children might be experiencing harm that no stimulant can fix. These children may also legitimately have ADHD, but unless prior or ongoing emotional damage is treated, it may be difficult to see dramatic improvement in the child’s behavior.

“We need to think more carefully about screening for trauma and designing a more trauma-informed treatment plan,” Brown says.

Dr. Kate Szymanski came to the same conclusion a few years ago. An associate professor at Adelphi University’s Derner Institute and an expert in trauma, Szymanski analyzed data from a children’s psychiatric hospital in New York. A majority of the 63 patients in her sample had been physically abused and lived in foster homes. On average, they reported three traumas in their short lives. Yet, only eight percent of the children had received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder while a third had ADHD.

“I was struck by the confusion or over-eagerness–or both–to take one diagnosis over another,” Szymanski says. “To get a picture of trauma from a child is much harder than looking at behavior like impulsivity, hyperactivity. And if they cluster in a certain way, then it’s easy to go to a conclusion that it’s ADHD.”

A previous edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders urged clinicians to distinguish between ADHD symptoms and difficulty with goal-directed behavior in children from “inadequate, disorganized or chaotic environments,” but that caveat does not appear in the latest version. Unearthing details about a child’s home life can also be challenging, Szymanski says.

A child may withhold abuse or neglect to protect his family or, having normalized that experience, never mention it all. Clinicians may also underestimate the prevalence of adversity. TheAdverse Childhood Experiences Study, a years-long survey of more than 17,000 adults, found that two-thirds of participants reported at least one of 10 types of abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction. Twelve percent reported four or more. That list isn’t exhaustive, either. The study didn’t include homelessness and foster care placement, for example, and the DSM doesn’t easily classify those events as “traumatic.”

It’s not clear how many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD annually, but a study published in 2010 estimated the number could be nearly 1 million. That research compared the diagnosis rate amongst 12,000 of the youngest and oldest children in a kindergarten sample and found that the less mature students were 60 percent more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis.

Related Posts:

Effects of Abuse: Brain Development in Children Exposed to Violence 

Understanding the Behavior Common to Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Children of Domestic Violence

8 Notes on Counseling Abused Children

Dealing with Psychological Trauma After Abuse

‘Other People’s Children': the Need for Open Discussion about Abuse

The Role of Environment and Response in PTSD Recovery 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children 

Christine Cissy White: “Why Survivors Need Each Other”

Link to “Why Survivors Need Each Other”

Christine Cissy White, a survivor of childhood abuse, shares (linked above):

“Most of us have learned not to drink, abuse, and be violent (yay us!), but the more subtle aspects of self-care and recovery are healthy nurturing, interdependence, making time for love and joy. Those can be mysterious.

What I know is talking to other survivors helps most. We can laugh about missing the “ease” of numbness while knowing the agony of being emotionally blunted isn’t worth the trade off. We can share how strenuous the process feels and is. And we can learn from each other.

…I was reminded, survivors have symptoms. They can linger for a long time. That’s just how it is.

Most days, we are high-functioning warriors building and rebuilding lives and selves. On those days, there is no shortage of people to talk with and relate to.

But on the days we feel tipped over inside by trauma, we need one another, people who get it as though we are sharing the same orange and saying, ‘It’s juicy, tangy, messy, and sweet.’ It’s a sensory, tactile knowing, not theoretical or abstract or requiring a co-pay or short educational asides.

I crave more of this. I have always craved this. I want to be able to say and hear others talking about the important and unglamorous healing of developmental trauma. I want to hear people who document and describe what breaking the cycle actually requires.”

For more stories of and resources for survivors of childhood abuse, visit the Childhood Abuse archive.

Soraya Chemaly: The Danger of Rape Euphemisms and Myths

Link to "Why Rape Euphemisms and Myths are Dangerous"

Link to “Why Rape Euphemisms and Myths are Dangerous”

Soraya Chemaly writes (linked above):

Every time you hear or say these types of expressions, the question should be “Who benefits from not saying ‘rape’?” Who is helped when we refuse to be accurate about rape? Because it’s certainly not rape victims. Most rapists in the world operate unchallenged and are rarely punished and they do so because we make them comfortable by misrepresenting the crimes they perpetrate, and language like this is one of the ways we do it. Current estimates are that only 3% of rapists ever see jail.

When feminists say “rape is rape, use the accurate word” it’s because specificity helps usunderstand and confront the problem. It’s not because we delight in making people uncomfortable, but because we understand how complicit language and notions of rape are in defining rights in society.

Writing in her landmark study, Redefining Rape, Estelle Freedman explains that the way we define rape informs rights, reinforces economic inequalities, and sustains discriminatory practices in the law and society. Rape narratives in America have, as she so ably demonstrates, everything to do with social hierarchy and power.

Related Posts:

Watch Your Language: Euphemisms in Rape Culture

The Danger in Renaming Rape

The Danger in a “Rape Joke”

Related Article: How Sexually Violent Language Perpetuates Rape Culture

Zaron Burnett: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture”

Link to "A Gentleman's Guide to Rape Culture"

Link to “A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture”

In his 5 June Huffington Post piece (which first appeared on Medium), Zaron Burnett nails rape culture – and every man’s ability to combat it – square on the head.

Burnett is honest and blunt without oversimplifying the complexity of sexual assault and the culture which too often accepts it as normal. He acknowledges that rape culture and sexual violence is not an issue of men vs. women; there are cases where women abuse or men are abused. He admits to having had “male-centric presumption[s]” and describes what he has done to combat the attitude that permeates rape culture – that is, women owe something to men. He gives examples of rape culture, anything from trivializing sexual assault to teaching women not to get raped, and then succinctly gives practical ways for men AND women to react to rape culture. Finally, he gives fellow males four ways to confront rape culture when they witness it in real life: “When something like #YesAllWomen occurs in our cultural conversation and women the world over are out there sharing their experiences, their trauma, their stories and their personal views, as men, we don’t need to enter that conversation. In that moment, all we need to do is listen, and reflect, and let their words change our perspective. Our job is to ask ourselves how we can do better.”

The following is an excerpt from Burnett’s piece (linked above):

If you are a man, you are part of rape culture…

A woman must consider where she is going, what time of day it is, what time she will arrive at her destination and what time she will leave her destination, what day of the week is it, if she will be left alone at any point … the considerations go on and on because they are far more numerous than you or I can imagine. Honestly, I can’t conceive of having to think that much about what I need to do to protect myself at any given moment in my life. I relish the freedom of getting up and going, day or night, rain or shine, Westside or downtown. As men we can enjoy this particular extreme luxury of movement and freedom of choice. In order to understand rape culture, remember this is a freedom that at least half the population doesn’t enjoy.

That’s why I go out of my way to use clear body language and act in a way that helps minimize a woman’s fear and any related feelings. I recommend you do the same. It’s seriously, like, the least any man can do in public to make women feel more comfortable in the world we share. Just be considerate of her and her space.

You may think it’s unfair that we have to counteract and adjust ourselves for the ill behavior of other men. You know what? You’re right. It is unfair. Is that the fault of women? Or is it the fault of the men who act abysmally and make the rest of us look bad? If issues of fairness bother you, get mad at the men who make you and your actions appear questionable.

Because when it comes to assessing a man, whatever one man is capable of, a woman must presume you are capable of. Unfortunately, that means all men must be judged by our worst example. If you think that sort of stereotyping is bullshit, how do you treat a snake you come across in the wild?

…You treat it like a snake, right? Well, that’s not stereotyping, that’s acknowledging an animal for what it’s capable of doing and the harm it can inflict. Simple rules of the jungle, man. Since you are a man, women must treat you as such.

The completely reasonable and understandable fear of men is your responsibility. You didn’t create it. But you also didn’t build the freeways either. Some of the things you inherit from society are cool and some of them are rape culture.

Since no woman can accurately judge you or your intentions on sight, you are assumed to be like all other men. 73% of the time a woman knows her rapist. Now, if she can’t trust and accurately assess the intentions of men she knows, how can you expect her to ever feel that she can accurately assess you, a complete stranger? Rape prevention is not just about women teaching women how not to get raped — it’s about men not committing rape.

Rape prevention is about the fact that a man must understand that saying “no” doesn’t mean “yes,” that when a woman is too drunk/drugged to respond that doesn’t mean “yes,” that being in a relationship doesn’t mean “yes.” Rather than focus on how women can avoid rape, or how rape culture makes an innocent man feel suspect, our focus should be: how do we, as men, stop rapes from occurring, and how do we dismantle the structures that dismiss it and change the attitudes that tolerate it?

Since you are a part of it, you ought to know what rape culture is.

Related Posts:

Rape Culture 101

Entitlement and Gender Violence

#YesAllWomen: Stories from Abuse Survivors

Improving the Way We Respond to Sexual Assault

Everyday Rape Culture

Preparing Your Daughter (and Son) for Street Harassment

“When Did You First Have to Think About Rape?”

Ten Ways to Combat Rape Culture