Facts and Opinions

Sexual Abuse in Children

Sexual Abuse in Children: Before, During, and After

In 1978, the Children’s Division of American Humane Association reported that an estimate of around 100,000 children were sexually abused each year. That was forty-one years ago, and as of now, the number has skyrocketed. Government officials state that this number has risen up to 700 million children worldwide. One out of ten children have gone through some type of sexual abuse. As much as that number is alarming, it unfortunately is the reality for many children in the United States. These acts of violation can heavily affect a child’s brain; biologically and psychologically. This stunts their development, as well as hinders future mental thought processes as one gets older.

    Sexual assault may seem relatively easy to detect, but to this day, it still isn’t understood completely. When anyone intentionally hurts of harms a person psychologically, sexually, physically, or with acts of neglect, this is known as abuse. Child sexual abuse is the exact same thing, just with a minor (typically seventeen and under) involved. A child under no circumstances can consent to doing anything sexual with anyone of consenting age. When an adult engages in any inappropriate acts with a minor, they are knowingly exposing the child to irreversible damage; obstructing one’s vulnerability. One thing to note is that child sexual abuse isn’t just always physical contact, although that is the case in many situations. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, says some of these acts are, and certainly not limited to:

  • Exhibitionism, a mental condition in which a person is compelled to display one’s genitals in public.

  • Fondling (stroke or caress erotically)

  • Masturbation in the presence of a child

  • Forcing a child to masterbate in front of them

  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, online chat rooms, or any digital interaction

  • Producing, owning, or sharing child pornography

  • Sexual harassment

    The people who commonly inflict these acts of violation are people that these minor may know and see on a regular basis, which makes it a lot easier to manipulate the person; teachers, coaches, instructors, caretaker, an older sibling, parent, step-parent, parent of a friend, and even their friends. As many as ninety three percent of children know the perpetrator. This drives a wedge into a person’s trust, creating those issues and letting them manifest into their behaviors later on in life.

    There are a few tell-tell signs of sexual assault in children; both physical and biological like stated earlier. The signs may be easier to discern depending on the age of the child. For instance, the average age for menstruation in young women is around twelve, so if a twelve year old is bleeding from ill-suited activity, sexual abuse might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Now, if a person is examining a four year old with vaginal bleeding, that may raise a few red flags. Bleeding is a common sign, but so is sudden bruising or swelling in the genital region. Torn articles of clothing, difficulty walking or sitting, frequent urination, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or peeling, burning, and or agitation in or around the vagina, penis, or buttocks.

    The brain is one of the most complex and fragile organs inside the human body. It is made up of over billions of different nerves; communicating in the trillions by connecting in sequences called synapses. This typically occurs around three years of age. In the early stages of brain development, neural connections and skills form first, followed by more complex thought processes, circuits, and abilities (Harvard). A child’s mind is impressionable; like a sponge, absorbing every experience that they come across. In Piaget’s Theory of Development, he states that human beings build up mental structures to adapt to the world around them. Children constantly construct their own “cognitive worlds.” At the beginning of the sensorimotor stage, mental changes begin to occur. Infants construct their understanding of the world by their own senses. After the sensorimotor stage comes the preoperational stage, a stage that begins from the age of two and ends at the age of seven. During this age range, Vygotsky says that children begin to develop their own way of thinking, and this is shaped primarily through social interaction. Children’s minds are shaped my cultural context. Imagine a child who has been molested, how do you think they are going to internalize that? What does this do to their cognitive developments and functions?

    The stages of brain development are quite extensive. When a young child experiences trauma, the effects are much more profound and much more internally damaging. No new neurons are made after birth, but once the brain is developed, the neurons that are already there begin to rewire. Old connections disconnect and become no more, while new experiences attach to one another. This is an example of the brain’s plasticity, the brain’s ability to be shaped and molded. Trauma that occurs during childhood can change the development of the brain as well as the structure of it. The amygdala (an almond shaped set of neurons located deep in the temporal lobe that has control over processing emotions), hippocampus (a small curved formation in the brain that is involved in the shaping of new memories), and prefrontal cortex (the cerebral cortex covering the front part of the frontal lobe, said to plan complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior) are areas of the brain implicated in the stress response. Traumatic stress can be associated with increased amounts of cortisol and norepinephrine responses to subsequent stressors (Bremner). Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body. These processes include metabolism and the immune system response. When cortisol levels are at such high amounts for prolonged periods of time, things such as weight gain, high blood pressure, disrupted sleep, negative moods, and a reduction in energy can occur. In a 2011 study conducted by Concordia University, many children who have behavioral issues have been shown to have an abnormally higher levels of cortisol than more well-behaving children.

    This goes into behavioral signs of abuse. According to RAINN, some children after being molested refuse to bathe or execute proper hygiene. They may not take much initiative in their clothes or their hair, refusing to brush it or comb it, and not washing the things that they wear or not putting much thought into how their clothes look. Parents and teachers should notice lowering or failing grades, as well as kids just not showing up to school to begin with. It’s pretty telling when a straight A student is suddenly getting D’s and F’s on their report cards. They may also run away from places that may be deemed as “safe” like school or home. They also say that children may also:

  • Develop some sort of phobia

  • Become overly protective over siblings and friends

  • Have more knowledge about sex or sexual activities than the average child

  • Nightmares

  • Bed wetting

  • Returns to regressive behaviors like thumb sucking for comfort

  • Feels threatened by any physical contact

  • Self harm

  • Exhibits signs of depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

    Within the psychological field, many professionals are still puzzled as to why people feel the need to take advantage of minors. The debate between sex and power is heavily argued. What is the nature of the problem? Child sexual abuse is classified as a sexual problem, while some textbooks on human sexuality consider it a sexual variation. When treating a child predator, professionals orient their treatments toward sexual aberration; loosening sexual tension and temporarily quenching their sexual desires and thirst. Some sexual offenders are given antilibidinal drugs to try and suppress their sexual libido. There are two types of medications that physicians prescribe; those that decrease testosterone (e.g. progestogens, antiandrogens, and gonadotropin releasing hormones) and those that reduce sexual drives (antipsychotics and serotonergic antidepressants). Six studies examined if three of the drugs listed previously were successful in lowering testosterone. The study showed that there was no re-offence within the two year follow-up. Secondary outcomes have shown that these perverted fantasies were brought down in people being treated, however, the offences did not cease. The testosterone levels correlated with the amount of sexual activity (Khan, Ferriter, Huband, Powney, Dennis, Duggan).

    Of course, the most important thing is the betterment of the child that has been affected. The child is innocent in this situation, and therapy is to help stifle trauma from progressing. Allison N. Sinanan, a social work professor at Stockton University, says that psychotherapy aids as the first model of a healthy relationship. The goal for this treatment is to jumpstart healing, nurture themselves through positive relationships, and so on and so forth. The goal for the psychologist or the person who is evaluating the child is to develop a sturdy relationship with that child. Psychotherapy helps rework trauma into a healthier sense of self. PTSD is a huge reality for children who have gone through abuse, and counseling is supposed to teach them how to “identify, reframe, and evaluate the dysfunctional cognitions related to the specific trauma and its sequelae that contribute to the intense negative emotions and behavioral reactions.” One of the methods that’s used in therapy is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). In a 2011 study, this way of therapy was effective in improving participant symptomatology, with the eight session condition including the trauma narrative being the most effective when it comes to abuse specific distress and child abuse related fear and general anxiety. EDMR, or eye desensitization and reprocessing is another treatment method. It allows clients to process an emotional experience that the survivor does not feel comfortable talking about as of yet. Directive questioning is used to desensitize the client through brief imagined exposure to the memory that proves traumatic. This method was originally created for adults who suffer from PTSD, but the use of this type of therapy is now an option for children and adolescents. Using an eight phase approach, the therapist will have the survivor recollect distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input like side to side eye movement. Another popular option is group therapy. This is considered the treatment of choice when working with sexually abused adolescents (Lindon). This is an environment in which children can interact with one another; giving them a sense that they aren’t alone; promoting a sense of support. Group therapy provides benefits beyond what individual therapy is able to achieve by providing increased empowerment and psychological well being (Yalom and Lezczc). People have said that it is easier to express their feelings knowing that what they’ve gone through others in the room have gone through at well. Group therapy has shown to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety by significant amounts (Westbury and Tutty). Many ways of healing come with counseling and work socially, but medication can also be given to a child sexual abuse survivor, however, it is not discussed as much as the different modes of therapy listed above. There has always been a debate in terms of medicating children and whether it is necessary; stating that it masks the problem instead of solving it. There is only minimal evidence that shows implementing sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, caused any clinical improvement for children with comorbid depression. However, there was a significant improvement in people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

   

In a case study done by Christiana Balan, a faculty member of Psychology and Educational Sciences within Spiru Haret University, she examines Daria, an eleven year old girl born in Rupea, a town in Transylvania, Romania who was sexually abused by her Uncle. During her psychological evaluation, Balan discovered that Daria was exposed to numerous traumatic situations, as well as being neglected by her Mother. In the past, the young girl has also been hospitalized and institutionalized. Due to the circumstances that Daria was in and the actions that were inflicted towards her, she was moved to a safer environment and was forced to undergo an intensive program of psychological counseling. Balan then broke down the process of assessment of this little girl. In the beginning of her treatment, Daria exhibited some of the signs that were mentioned before such as depressive moods and heightened emotions, but towards the end of the assessment, Balan was able to see a change. Over time, Daria was able to establish a healthy relationship with her assessor built on trust and unconditional acceptance. Unfortunately, the young girl exhibited mixed emotional disorder with anxiety-depressive and maladaptive components. She showed emotional lability, low resistance to frustration, excessive crying, and being quite malleable. Psychologically, she was not reaching the maturity levels that most eleven year olds are at. Daria is apart of the concrete operational stage of cognitive development. During this time, Daria and her peers would be able to accurately imagine the consequences of something occurring without it really needing to. Children within the concrete operational stage, they think of “what if” scenarios.

In the case of Daria and people who have been through what she’s been through, in recovery, short term and long term goals are established. For short term goals, mental health professionals want to be able to get the full story of the abuse that took place in the client’s life; the frequency, duration, and the nature of the abuse that took place. Next would be expressing and identifying feelings that stem from the abuse; breaking away from keeping certain information secretive. After that would possibly be telling someone that they trust about the things that have happened. The main thing initially is being honest; with themselves, with their family members, and being honest with their therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Getting rid of shame and guilt would be another goal, as well as reminding them that what took place was nowhere near their fault. Trying to reduce emotional intensity and stabilize unbalanced moods and mindsets. The child needs to learn to build their self-esteem, improve positive social skills, and work on boundaries. Long term goals include stopping sexual victimization in children; controlling emotions and behaviors that come with sexual abuse. Working on acceptance and forgiveness can be hard, but once it is done, the client has unlocked a huge key in healing. Over time, the child should want to overcome the traumatic event, eliminating denial of what has happened. Being able to see themselves in a positive light would be a step towards the right direction.

    The long term effects on child sexual abuse survivors depends on the person, as well as the amount of treatment they do or do not get. Some people may exhibit higher levels of depression, guilt, self-blame, shame, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, denial, repression, as well as future relationship problems and sexual problems. Depression is the most common trait that an adult may have after being abused as a child. The survivors may have a habit of thinking negatively about themselves an internalizing their abuse (Hartman). They tend to display more destructive actions years after the abuse, sometimes even blaming themselves for what has happened (Browne and Finklehor). Physical image issues and body dysmorphia can relate to feeling dirty and not whole; picking up disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia (Ratican). Survivors may even resort to physical harm like cutting or body mutilation. Interpersonal relationships can be a difficult task, as the abuse may make the survivor afraid of getting to know new people. This can grow into trust issues, skewed boundaries, passive behaviors, and getting involved in abusive relationships. Abuse survivors may deflect from physical touch all together; fearing intimacy and any sense of commitment. If they are able to go further with sexual experiences, they may not be able to reach orgasm. Sexual abuse survivors were more likely to have erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or vaginal pain during sex. This can lead to an array of arousal disorders.

    When an adult who has suffered through sexual abuse is trying to resolve the issues that have come with it, there are a series of different therapy methods that a mental health professional may introduce. Wendy Maltz in 2001 says that the best way to resolve internal conflict is to locate where the sexual and intimacy issues stem from. Client empowerment; making the person feel safe and worthy of validation. They must gain skills to be immersed into a normal way of life. Sometimes the client may hinder from disclosing information about the attack, whether it be from embarrassment or pride. The mental health professional may help the person engage in beginning healthy relationships with others; platonically and romantically. According to Feinauer in a 1996 study, people who were able to better adjust to relationships has a drop in depression. If the survivor is already in a long term relationship, the professional now takes on the role of teacher; educating their partner on the long term effects of child sexual abuse so that they can actively be apart of the healing process. Counselors can help couples integrate positive and effective communication, trust, respect, and equality in their partnership (Maltz). Sometimes however, the complete opposite occurs. Some people may show extreme sexual pleasures like compulsive sexual behavior, inappropriate seduction, sexualizing every relationship that they make, promiscuity, and sadistic and masochistic fantasies. The survivors must learn to develop a positive sexual self concept, lowering negative sexual tendencies.

    Every ninety-two seconds someone is sexually assaulted. Every nine minutes the person is a child. From 2009 to the year 2013, Child Protective Services states that around 64,000 kids a year are molested in the United States; a majority of them being between the ages of twelve and seventeen. 18.34% of children are underneath the age of twelve. These children are thrust into a life that they did not ask for; a life that they did not deserve. Out of one thousand attackers, only five of them are reprimanded…only five. With psychology and science, people are making more efforts to aid people into recovery, while preventing attacks from repeating. More and more people are speaking out; letting their voices be heard and advocating for survivors to speak as well.

Bibliography

Maltz, W. (2002). Treating the sexual intimacy concerns of sexual abuse survivors. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17(4), 321-327.

Feinauer, L., Callahan, E. & Hilton, H. G. (1996). Positive intimate relationships decrease depression in sexually abused women. American Journal of Family Therapy, 24(2), 99-106.

Ratican, K. (1992). Sexual abuse survivors: Identifying symptoms and special treatment considerations. Journal of Counseling & Development, 71(1), 33-38.

Browne, A., & Finkelhor, D. (1986), Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 66-77.

Hartman, M., Finn, S., & Leon, G. (1987). Sexual-abuse experiences in a clinical population: Comparisons of familial and nonfamilial abuse. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 24(2), 154-159.

Hall, M., & Hall, J. (2011). The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Counseling implications. Retrieved from http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/vistas11/Article_19.pdf

“Cognitive Development: Piaget’s Concrete Operations.” MentalHealth.net. https://www.mentalhelp.net/cognitive-development/piagets-concrete-operations/

Staron, V. Perel, JM. Mannarino, AP. Cohen, JA. (2007)  “A pilot randomized controlled trial of combined trauma-focused CBT and sertraline for childhood PTSD symptoms.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17581445

Westbury E, Tutty LM (1999) The efficacy of group treatment for survivors of childhood abuse.Child Abuse Negl 23: 31-44.

Yalom and Leszcz (2005) The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.(5thedn) Basic Books.

Lindon J, Nourse CA (1994) A multi-dimensional model of groupwork for adolescent girls who have been sexually abused.Child Abuse Negl 18: 341-348.

Steer, RA. Runyon, MK. Cohen, JA. Mannarino, AP. Deblinger, E. (2011) “ Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children: impact of the trauma narrative and treatment length.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20830695

Khan O, Ferriter M, Huband N, Powney MJ, Dennis JA, Duggan, C. “Drug treatments for sexual offenders or those at risk of offending.” https://www.cochrane.org/CD007989/BEHAV_drug-treatments-for-sexual-offenders-or-those-at-risk-of-offending

S, Sgroi. “Handbook of Clinical Intervention in Child Sexual Abuse.” Simon and Schuster. (https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=XfBX3y5O8WcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=child+sexual+abuse+therapy&ots=8k_5MrnnMo&sig=0bRARM9MBjUqydhTW6rt4numD2w#v=onepage&q=child%20sexual%20abuse%20therapy&f=false

(2011) C, Balan.“Child Abuse: Case Study.”  Spiru Haret University. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/75db/2726f183504dee81f296685bb3a73122d62b.pdf

“Behavioral Problems Linked to Cortisol Levels” (2011) Concordia University.  http://www.concordia.ca/cunews/main/releases/2011/02/09/behavioral-problems-linked-to-cortisol-levels.html

K, Singer. “Myths and Facts about Male Sexual Abuse and Assault.” 1 in 6.org. https://1in6.org/get-information/myths/

(2019) “Cortisol” YouandYourHormones.org. https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/

J, Douglas Bremner. (2006) “Traumatic Stress: Effects on the Brain.” NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/

(2016) “Timeline: brain development from birth.” Queensland Government. https://www.earlyyearscount.earlychildhood.qld.gov.au/age-spaces/timeline-brain-development-birth/

“Brain Architecture.” Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/

(2019) “A look at child abuse on a global level.” The Protection of Minors in the Church. https://www.pbc2019.org/protection-of-minors/child-abuse-on-the-global-level

E. Olafson. (2011) “Child Sexual Abuse: Demography, Impact, and Interventions.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19361521.2011.545811   

A, Wilbert Burgess. “Sexual Assault of Children and Adolescence.” Lexington Books. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=h2uIOTSvoRUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=sexual+assault+in+children&ots=1z7RXDYn6f&sig=d-ThZM6tiS9WpCIkABH_8ryeqkc#v=onepage&q=sexual%20assault%20in%20children&f=false

“Child Sexual Abuse-Guidelines for Medico-Legal Care For Victims of Sexual Violence.” MedLeg. https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/resources/publications/en/guidelines_chap7.pdf

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Facts and Opinions

What, to the American Slave, is your Fourth of July?

There are countless pictures of me taken on the Fourth of July. They’re probably somewhere in the attic buried under old blankets and clothes that I can’t fit anymore. I’m standing in front of my house, holding a few American flags, the gap in my tooth looking bigger than I remembered it to be. Since I am naturally an “extra” person, I gave Uncle Sam a run for his money. I was covered in red, white, and blue. I was the human form of the American flag. At that age, I didn’t realize that the “holiday” that I was celebrating was not a representative of me or my people. Some call today, July 4th, Independence Day. I’ll give a brief history, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows it by now. If you’re American, it was shoved into our brains as soon as we started school.

July 2nd, 1776, the Congress voted in favor for independence from the British. Two days later, July 4th for those who can’t count, delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Since then, people have been celebrating by firing up the grill and lighting up their fireworks. I cringe when I think about my star spangled ass running around the family barbecue. Now, it makes me cringe when I see people…my people…wearing red, white, and blue, wishing others a Happy Fourth. I just want to grab a hold of their shoulders and say, “THIS HOLIDAY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!!! YOU KNOW THAT RIGHT!?!?!?”

On July 5th, statesmen, writer, orator, social reformist, and of course, abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, delivered one of his most known speeches to date, “What To The Slave Is The Fourth of July?” It goes as follows:

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?…

I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

Let me give a rough summation of what he’s saying; how the hell does this have anything to do with me and my people? This independence is for you white sons of guns and not me. I’m sure Mr. Douglass’s explanation would be a lot more complex, but hopefully now you get the picture if you didn’t take the time to read all of Frederick Douglass’s speech. Let’s think about the current problems that are taking place today. The government is literally losing children in their custody; separating them from their families and having them lay on tin foil to keep warm. I mean you see it all over your Twitter feed, it’s not like it isn’t happening. They are literally in cages. Black people are still being shot down like it’s deer season. People are still being denied basic human rights. Black people and people of color are still looked at as second class citizens. Black people were not freed until 1865, and even after that, we are still being degraded due to our looks, but it seems like every little white girl from California is trying to tan as much as possible to get that bronze look, and plumping their lips up with filler.

I’ve kind of strayed from the topic at had a little bit, but all I’m saying is that my fellow black people! This day is not for us. We aren’t celebrating our freedom, we are reveling in our enslavement. The day has passed, but if you want to celebrate “freedom,” celebrate Juneteeth (June 19th). June 19th, 1965 was the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, as well as the emancipation of slavery through the confederate states of America. That day is also my birthday, so I especially hold that day near and dear to my heart. There are so many people who share the same skin tone as me who saw this past June 19th as just a regular day.

How can we celebrate the Fourth of July when the freedom does not cross over to us? Like Frederick Douglass said, we have nothing to do with your independence. So when you’re igniting sparklers and waving American flags around, stop for a minute and gaze into that red, white and blue…does this really represent me?

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Facts and Opinions

To Kill A Mockingbird Come to Life: The Central Park Five

WARNING: I GET MAD AS HELL IN THIS POST AND KIND OF GO ALL OVER THE PLACE

 

My younger brother is about to turn seventeen in July. He is 5’6, has this beautiful mocha skin tone, a full fledged beard, and the biggest heart. He truly is the sweetest kid I’ve ever known. He is damn near good at everything he decides to invest his time in. He can play the guitar in a few months better than some can in decades. He is a genius when it comes to math…and then there’s his sister, who gets confused adding 2+2 (I think the answer is 4). He can spend his whole day on the computer, creating virtual realities. He runs track, and he’s fast too. He is one of the smartest and most talented people I have ever met. I am very blessed to call him my brother.

My brother also is one of the most innocent people I have ever come across. He really doesn’t mean any harm by anything he does. He thinks that everyone in the world is good, and although I believe that everyone CAN be good, sometimes people don’t like to go that route. My brother looks like a grown man. He has a stern face and muscular build. The color of his skin represents the history that has flowed through our family for decades. It’s the skin color that my Father has, and that his Father had. When I look at my brother, I see hope. I see love. I see the future. I see a young man who doesn’t care what anyone says because he is genuinely, authentically him. I wish I had that confidence. But when “they” see him…when “they” see him…they don’t see any of that.

When “they” see him they see contempt. They see a threat; a breach of safety. They see a criminal. That sweet kid that used to cry when butterflies would flutter around him is instantly seen as less than human. After contemplating whether I had the mental strength to go through something like this, I decided to watch When They See Us. This four part series is about the Central Park Five, five young men who were falsely accused of raping a woman back in 1989. (photo above left to right) Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise had their youth stolen from them because the New York Police Department wanted to focus on ruining their lives instead of actually focusing on the actual person who raped Patricia Meili, and murdered Lourdes Gonzalez prior to that attack. This series made me angry. The way that the trial went, the way that Linda Fairstein was so adamant on persecuting these young men. The fact that the evidence was a clear indication that they did NOT do it! The fact that they all had hopes and dreams, only to be shot down by being put behind those bars. This series made me grit my teeth in aggravation. This series made me bite back tears. (SPOILER) The scene where Korey (there are multiple spellings on the internet) receives a Chia Pet after wishing for one made me practically lose it. What that poor man endured I couldn’t even imagine; all of them.

Young black boys have been forced to grow up quickly in the eyes of the law. They’re seen as adults in elementary school. The preconceived notions that plague black boys, and black people in general are killing them because people are too stupid to realize that they are human beings too. I guarantee that if they were five white boys, their DNA would have been tested and immediately after they found out that nothing was a match, they would have back at home listening to their Walkman’s in their bedrooms. Let me remind you that NOTHING MATCHED THE DNA ON PATRICIA MEILI!!! There was no blood or skin on her that matched any of the boys. Nothing. They should have been able to go home right then and there. In a VladTV interview, Yusef Salaam says that the police were trying to plant some of the boy’s DNA on the crime scene. I believe they took Kevin and Korey to the scene of the crime. Korey is told by one of the officers that his shoe is untied. While trying to tie his shoe, one of the officers tries to make him fall over into the scene, attempting to collect evidence on him. 

Imagine the psychological damage that this has done to these men. Something as simple as going to Central Park with friends turns into seven to thirteen years in jail. Imagine being thrown in jail for something that you did not do; being ridiculed and isolated by family and friends because the justice system that is supposed to bring the truth to light is automatically treating you like the culprit all because your melanin is more apparent than most. What made me upset is Antron McCray’s Dad. Granted, his Father probably wasn’t properly told how to deal with the police, so I won’t completely blame him for practically leading his son astray, but the fact that he just started bowing out of his son’s life when things started to get rough in unacceptable to me. Then, as soon as Antron gets out, he has to basically repair that relationship that he has with his Father because now he doesn’t know how much time he has left with him. Antron probably felt betrayed by his Father. My own Dad is bailing out on me, your own flesh and blood; a person who helped give you life. A video by Calvin Michaels goes a little more in depth as to how that might have affected Antron, as well as the rest of the psychological trauma that these guys have been through.

You have people tuning into this case, judging your every move. These young men had their numbers and addresses revealed to the public. They were threatened; people wishing for their deaths as well as the deaths of their family members. People associated with these five were also ostracized, losing things like their social status, their jobs…and their sanity. Think about what they endured locked up. Being accused of rape and robbery is certainly not something that people take lightly. Think about how the man who took out $85,000 for an ad calling to reinstate the death penalty against these innocent young men is president; leader of the free world. On Twitter in the year of 2013, eleven years after these men were exonerated, Donald Trump was still blabbing about how the Central Park Five were guilty. Now if that isn’t blatant racism, I don’t know what is. Let them be little blonde haired blue eyed boys, he would have been saying something a little different; boys will be boys, or crap like that. Think about when they were freed. You think the psychological turmoil stopped there, oh no. The things that they went through probably haunt them to this day.

I want to focus a little bit more on Korey Wise. Each young man has all my respect, but Korey Wise…let me tell you something. The men were exonerated and given $40 million to divide, but Mr. Wise should have gotten $40 million just for himself. First off, he went down to the police station to support his friend Yusef. I know he didn’t expect things to turn out this way; none of them did. Because Wise was sixteen, he didn’t have to be accompanied by an adult, which gave the interrogator free reign to ask whatever he wanted, however he wanted. This young man already had a learning disability as well as hearing issues, so I honestly think that’s the reason why they gave it to him the worst. He was beaten up the most by the authorities, being physically hit and yelled at by detectives. He was tried as an adult at the age of sixteen and sent to Riker’s Island, the infamous prison in New York City. A sixteen year old kid in a world that he never should have experienced. He spent more than a decade in prison. He begged to be in solitary confinement. When you’re in solitary confinement, you have no outside interaction. Being in complete isolation for long periods of time can make you lose your mind. But would you rather stay completely hidden from most of society, or would you like to be targeted by other inmates and made to be their play thing? At a young age, Korey Wise had to make that decision. One thing that Calvin Michaels caught on to that I did as well in the movie is the police officer that was around before he asked for solitary; the one that would always say, “I’ll let you know if you can do something for me” or something like that. I think he was sexually abused, but since I don’t know for sure, I’ll just leave it at that. His sister was murdered while he was in prison too, we can’t forget about her (a wonderful performance by Isis King playing Marci Wise). Her being disrespected as a trans woman is one thing, but being killed crushed Korey. He wasn’t able to be there during her last days. As her brother, I’m sure that he was somewhat of a protector, and I hope he didn’t blame himself for what happened to her. Out of the settlement, Korey was given the highest amount of money at $12.2 million. 

Most of these men have children. The fear that they have for their sons is genuine and real because they have went through any man of color’s worst nightmare. I am not a licensed mental health professional yet, but I’m sure that these men still are affected by these incidents. PTSD from the violence that they were subjected to in prison, maybe anxiety and depression from the taunts that people threw at them. The mind doesn’t fully finish forming until your mid twenties, do you think that this helped a healthy brain development? Being told that you’re a monster? Being abused by the system?

It took me three days to try and sit through Ava Duvernay’s masterpiece, and I can honestly say that I am ashamed at the fact that I really didn’t know much about the Central Park Five. It’s crazy to think that this happened in 1989. Isn’t it insane that this situation could very well happen now? Isn’t it insane that black people are treated this way still in 2019? I am fearful for my brother. He takes the bus to and from school. It terrifies me thinking that one day I will hear that my brother is in jail, or that he was shot by a police officer because his cellphone fell out of his pocket. Like the end of the first episode states, “when will we be boys?” My brother has been told how to act around the police and warned about the dangers of the police ever since he was the age of four. Don’t wear that because you might be seen as a threat. Try to smile more because a police officer might find you threatening if you don’t. Just do what the police officer tells you. As soon as you’re pulled over, put your hands on the steering wheel and don’t move them. We don’t want you to get killed. School for my brother will be coming to a close soon, and I’m sure he will want to go out and see the sights that Chicago has to offer. I’m afraid that one day he’ll walk out of the house, only to never walk back in again. When will my brother just be seen as a boy? Has he ever been one?

Calvin Michael’s Video:

I highly recommend you watch it

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Self Care Saturday

My Guide to Journaling

Hello everyone! So this is my first post on Self Care Saturday! Woooo! Self Care Saturday is pretty self explanatory…I give you different ways of self care on every Saturday of the month (or at least a Saturday of the month).

Today, I’m taking you into one of my favorite self care past time…journaling! Oh how I love journaling. There is nothing more therapeutic than writing in my opinion. I actually have three of them that I carry everywhere. Each one serves a different purpose.

  • My yellow journal is for my day to day entries. I always date the page and write about what happened that day. I like to do this after I take my bath or shower and change into a clean pair of pajamas (or an overlarge t-shirt). I naturally have an overactive imagination, so when I am starting to get bored of my surroundings, I pull out my journal and write how I feel.
  • My pink journal is for my dreams, goals, prayers, and manifestations. When I’m feeling low, I like to open up this bad boy and envision myself in a more positive situation. I like to write out little scenarios that I hope will happen. For instance, I wrote one about strolling through the Louvre in France wearing a flowy white dress with my curls in full bloom like flowers in spring. Man I was really in my feelings that day, I tell you. It just let’s your mind run free to a happy place.
  • My black journal is for my short stories and poems. They don’t have to be a full fledged sonnet; sometimes they’re just little quips and ideas. When something pops into my head, I quickly jot it down. I can’t draw to save my life, but some of them have drawings and doodles on the pages, as well as little songs that I may create.

Now having three journals might be a little excessive, but for me it helps organize my thoughts. But when it’s your journal, you can do whatever you want with it. It can be as messy and cluttered as you want. It’s for you and your thoughts. I would say, when journaling…

  • Sometimes choosing the journal is important. This is something that you’re going to be writing in, have it be enticing. You should want to write in it. I bought my journals at Walmart, but they are so cute. They are Pen + Gear Five Subject Notebooks. I love that they have little tabs to divide different sections of the journal.
  • Write every day. Every day. Even if it’s just one sentence. I am sad. I am happy. Thank you God. Shoot, it can be one word if you want to. Just make sure you write something.
  • It’s okay to restart. I have journals that haven’t been finished. Sometimes the things in that journal don’t give off the energy that you expect. It’s okay to switch journals and start anew!
  • Be in tune with your feelings and emotions. Don’t hold back.

That concludes the first Self Care Saturday post! Hopefully, you find a journal and fill its pages with stories, hopes, and well wishes.

Happy journaling!!!!

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Journaling

Month Number One: A slight rant and 400 years

January is coming close to an end. The first day ushered in this new sense of hope and discovery for all of us. 2018 was a year of realization. It was like a gnat; buzzing around our ears and crowding our personal space. The lessons of 2018 are going to be the foundation of my 2019, and so far I am still going strong. Could it be because of the new year and its new wave of energy, or has nothing really changed? Maybe this new feeling of purpose and confidence is some sort of placebo. Am I still the same person now that I was in 2018? Some of the voices in my head (true Gemini lol) tell me these things off and on, and I try not to succumb. If I really think about it, all of my manifestations for the first month of the year are slowly but surely coming into fruition, and I think that has a lot to do with myself, as well as the beginning of a new year.
I wanted to briefly talk about an article on The Root that I happened to come across while scrolling through the internet one day. The first person of African descent set foot on America’s soil in the year 1619. Ever since then, black people have had a treacherous experience here. We are seen as foreign objects that do not belong; the “other.” Our skin is discriminated against, as well as our hair, body types, and culture…but it’s always copied. Like I stated in a Facebook post a few days ago, we are the culture, we just never get the credit. I just thought that is was kind of interesting. This 400 years of slavery (even though slavery was abolished in 1865) may have brought some sort of curse. We might not be picking cotton in fields and being beaten with whips, but we are still slaves to systematic oppression as well as archaic ideologies of how black people should be. Jim Crow kind of still exists you know? It just manifests itself in various ways throughout the years. The 400 years trope comes from the bible. In Genesis 15:13, it says, “Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there (New International Version).” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? If you add 400 to 1619, what do you get? I know I’m not an aficionado in mathematics, but if my calculator is correct, you get 2019!
2019 is the 400th year. Has the curse been lifted? I can say as a minority in America that my experiences here have not been peachy keen. I mean, a bit of my self loathing as a child came from the fact that I did not resemble my Caucasian counterparts. Going to college in a town that is more than 90% white lets me know some days that I am not accepted in some communities. This, however, has only made me stronger as an individual and prouder of my blackness. People are so pressed that I exist, like…keep hating boo. 2018 had made me come face to face with myself. People will not always like me just by looking at me, and I can’t let that affect me. We as people can work together as a collective to strengthen our community, but we must first acknowledge the beauty and power in ourselves individually…and there’s an abundance of it. Do you know how important you are? How much you’ve endured? How much your ancestors have gone through? Your looks are envied by others. Your history is rich and full. Black people…that is all in you! It’s in me! And 2018 has made me aware that I am a blessing and I should think of myself as such. That might sound a little vain, but you are a blessing. You could be six feet deep in the ground. Every day that you live is a blessing.
I have a tendency to get rather preachy with these posts when I’m passionate. My main focus for this post is to say that we must break the curse that we held in ourselves, and that’s with changing our habits and thoughts. I need to plan out my thoughts; my mind goes a mile a minute. This month I have made an effort to better myself, and I will continue to do the same in February. I prayed and manifested for more experience in the career that I want to be in, and I was promoted to a higher position. I’ve had people from my past come and contact me, trying to slither their way back into my life…and I ignored their advances. My worth is much more important than a brief stint of attention. I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot change what has happened in the past, and can only move forward. I’ve accepted my face and the way it kind of hangs to the right. I’ve accepted my little round nose and full cheeks, as well my gap teeth (which I’m proud of). I’ve practiced self-care by keeping to myself when I need to. It’s okay to say no to hanging out. It’s good to spend time with myself and get to know myself even more. She loves overly feminine stuff. She likes perfume and getting her nails done and fashion. She loves to read and write and engage in her own little world. She’s introverted…but nowhere near antisocial. She is delicate, but durable.
I have taken steps toward keeping my peace. I’ve moved mountains this past month. I’ve spoken my truth and expressed my feelings thoroughly. I’ve come to terms with past mistakes that I have made, as well as acknowledge what I did to get into that situation in the first place. The groundwork has been laid, and I need to follow what I’ve laid. I’ve learned not to be as trusting as I have been in the past, and not tolerate the things that I have previously. I just feel chains falling and my head lifting. I just have a good feeling about 2019, even though we have had some major mishaps happen already (thank you Trump). I can only control myself, and I am trying my very best to not fall back and remain the way I used to be. I am slowly evolving, and I can see the progress.
In a few hours it will be February, which is the perfect month to talk about self-love. I want to tie self love in the black community, because I know that us as people are conditioned to think that our beauty is lesser than. I am beautiful. I am beautiful because I am black. I am beautiful because of my history, good and bad. I am beautiful because I am continuously growing and changing. I’m beautiful because I am finally realizing my worth. I am just beautiful….PERIOD!

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Poetry

In Me

Do you see beauty in me?

In Oklahoma

Seminole

Sunshine’s smooch

Mother Nature’s soul

Brown sugar

Emerald green

The hues inside my skin

The orange-ish reddish undertones

My moonshine distilled lips

Family

Grown in Jackson

Born Biloxi

Build them healthy

Cornbread

Collard greens

History

Chitlin circuit

Wrinkled hands

Do tell their take

But haven’t sold my legacy

Cracklin’ oil

Pops strumming

Guitar groans

Intertwine the tone that comes along

Through the Louisiana bayou

Your past lies too

No handwritten

Spoken fiction

Uptown heartbreak

Rhythmic lymphnodes

Teach me the code

Reach coast to coast

Your sister’s stories

Your mother’s prayers

Crest fallen goals

That I will break

And carry on

Let me add my verse

To the song

To the hymn

I’ll make it my own

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