Facts and Opinions

SAD…it isn’t just an emotion

We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:

  • if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
  • there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
  • insomnia or difficulties sleeping
  • hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
  • increase or decrease in weight
  • a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
  • feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
  • heightened agitation
  • restlessness
  • having a hard time focusing
  • violent outbursts

Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.

Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.

Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.

Medication-

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).

Light therapy-

I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.

Psychotherapy-

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.

Vitamin D-

It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

http://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin

UV Radiation

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Facts and Opinions

How To Stay Young…According to Tracee Ellis Ross

I have been following Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram for quite a while. In my head, she’s an old friend of mine. I grew up on Girlfriends; watching the reruns while my Mother was asleep laughing at the chaos and lessons that ensued with each episode. I am a Joan Clayton to the tee! With a little bit of Toni (I loved her character too). I admired Joan, a hard working attorney and entrepreneur who knew how to make things happen. I wanted (and still want) to be that…I wanted to be her! Tracee portrayed that character so well, probably because she encompasses a lot of those go-getter and slightly quirky traits (traits that I would like to say I possess as well).

She is the embodiment of the rich auntie that kind of does whatever she wants, and that is a major mood. I have come to the conclusion that this lifestyle will probably be my life; traveling around the world on my own dime, wearing designer clothes, and sending expensive gifts from Paris to my nieces and nephews…a girl can dream. Anyways, people have kind of looked to her for lifestyle advice, even if they didn’t ask her directly. Tracee seems to be living her best life. People (including myself) may ask, well how is she thriving so? What’s her secret? Tracee does exude this youthful energy, what makes her stay so young? Physically and mentally, at 46-years-young, she is as lively and as vibrant as ever! Well, Tracee decided to go into detail and bless us with the information on how she does it, and I think these actions can really improve ones way of life. Let’s dive in!

View this post on Instagram

5 “grown woman” ways to stay young. by me.

A post shared by Tracee Ellis Ross (@traceeellisross) on

Number 1: Giggle As Much As Possible

Laughter is the best medicine, I can attest to that one. Laughter is a complex response and reaction. It is our physiological reaction to humor according to the popular website How Stuff Works. It all contains a set of gestures and the production of sound. Laughter is created through many regions of the brain like the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the back of the brain). If any of these parts are damaged, this can actually disrupt laughter and what one person may deem humorous. The higher function in the left brain hemisphere decode words and syntactical structures in a very analytical way, the right brain hemisphere understands the humor. The center of our brain creates an image of the funny idea or statement in our heads, while our limbic system releases the chemicals that promote a better mood. Laughter releases a substance called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. The endorphins go through your veins, traveling through your body and eventually ending up in your brain. This gives you a more relaxed, positive, and happy feeling. Laughing gives your diaphragm a pretty good work out! Not only the diaphragm, but your legs, faces, abdominal muscles and back. According to Organic Facts, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can be brought down significantly through laughing. Laughing also increases blood flow and the respiratory system. It also boosts your immune system. Laughing improves your health over all!

Number 2: Get Your Sleep

On average, I think I get about six hours of sleep. I’m trying to get another hour or two in there. Eight hours I think would be a pretty good amount of time to catch some z’s. Human beings are diurnal creatures, meaning we like to function through the day and take the load off at night. Owls, for example, are the opposite. They are nocturnal, they love the night time, but you probably won’t see them out and about during the day. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine states that sleeping less that six hours and more than nine hours increased diabetes risk. They say between seven and eight hours is great! And what about naps? According to the National Association of Sleep (that sounds pretty credible, right?), a twenty to thirty minute nap is recommended. Sleeping and napping helps improve focus and alertness. It can also help enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. Now for some people, naps might be a no go. Some (me….I’m one of them) are left to feel groggy or even more tired after a nap. Sometimes it may also affect later sleep patterns. But if you are tired…GO TO SLEEP…if you can. That’s your body’s way of indicating that you need a rest.

Number 3: Drink Plenty of Water

Please! For the love of God…drink some H2O. I literally drink water 80% of the time. I just bought a twenty six ounce Manna water bottle from Meijer a few days ago, and I carry it all the time and keep it near my bedside. Water keeps your body at a normal temperature. Do you want strong knees like Megan thee Stallion? Well you better start drinking up! Water cushions your joints and lubricates them. Water helps your body protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Through perspiration, bowel movements, and urination, waste is removed from your body.

Number 4: Have As Much Sex As Possible

Okay Tracee! I see you girl! Besides the obvious reason why sex is good (or should be), sexual activity does have some health benefits as well. Having sex once or twice a week helps boost the immune system by producing higher levels of immune fighting antibodies. No more illness for you! Sex may protect people from heart disease; balancing estrogen and testosterone hormones. It helps lower blood pressure too. Remember to practice safe sex and consensual sex (not sure what’s considered consensual, check out my blog post on what consent is and what it isn’t. Here’s the link: https://underneaththefro.com/2019/08/18/what-consent-is-and-what-it-isnt/). And let’s not forget about masturbation (is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?). There are a load (I have a dirty mind) of health benefits when it comes to masturbation. The following include:

  • reducing sexual tension
  • reduce stress
  • helps you sleep better
  • improve self esteem and body image
  • relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
  • strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic region and anal areas

If you aren’t having sex, you can get the same result from a low cardio workout or a brisk jog. Meditation helps too, as well as taking the proper steps towards boosting self confidence.

Number 5: Love With An Open Heart

You lost me there Tracee. No, I’m kidding, but sometimes when you’ve been hurt so many times, it can be difficult to love with an open heart. I took it more so as loving yourself with an open heart. Truly loving yourself is such a beautiful thing, but it is a journey; a journey that I am still on. There are people that have lived their whole lives hating who they were, and I don’t want to be that way, and you shouldn’t want that either. It is easy to love openly and freely when things are just peachy. But what about when things aren’t looking so good? It’s a lot harder isn’t it? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also cause a lot of paranoia and create more doubt and fear. Our mind and our heart seem to be on a different page from time to time (or all the time). Keeping an open heart can help heal past pain and transgressions. The heart is so powerful. The heart has the ability to heal hurting wounds. This one might be a little tricky, but it can be done.

Well, that seems simple enough, right? It’s the little things that can help us get through our days just a little easier. Thanks Tracee for the advice!

 

Sources:

10 Impressive Benefits of Laughter

https://stason.org/articles/wellbeing/sleep/how_many_hours_do_you_need_to_sleep.html

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html

https://familydoctor.org/health-benefits-good-sex-life/

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-and-relationships/masturbation

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions

Am I Next?: How many more will go through what Uyinene went through?

TRIGGER WARNING:

I’ve been logged out of social media for a little bit so I was a little out of the loop on some things that have happened recently. Going through the normal bar bathroom selfies, inspirational quotes, and random rants, one story made me furious. It made me grow angry with each word that I read. I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing stories like this. I’m tired of slowly being desensitized by these stories because they happen so often. I’m tired of being fearful for the people that I know. I’m tired of begging my friends to put their locations on so I can check and make sure they’re where they are supposed to be going. I’m tired of carrying around mace because I don’t know if some lunatic is going to randomly feel enticed to tackle me to the ground and assault me. I had thought of carrying around a taser, but they aren’t legal in Illinois. I do plan to carry a pocket knife with me at some point. I shouldn’t have to do that! No one should have to do that! I should be able to get to my destination safely with no interference. Anyways, I could get stuck on this topic for days, but I’m going to get on to the point of this article.

Uyinene Mrwetyana. Uyinene; a South African name meaning gift of God. Reading about her I got a chance to get a glimpse of her personality. She seemed intelligent, warm, and widely loved. Her skin was so radiant and that smile…her smile was captivating. She was just nineteen years old, making strides and efforts towards living her dream. She attended the University of Cape Town. She was a film student. Who knows, we could’ve seen one of her films on the big screen one day. Well, that won’t happen. We may never get to see her creativity in motion. We may never get to see her artistry. Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed by being hit in the head with a scale by 42 year old Luyanda Botha (allegedly) inside a post office. She went there to get a package, and the man told her to come back later. She was said to be missing August 30th. That’s when he brutally attacked her. I was scrolling through her Instagram and nearly cried. She was beautiful…my God she was so beautiful. The man’s trial is set for November 5th according to The South African. He seemed to have no remorse in regards to what he did. I really hope he rots in prison.

The hashtag #AmINextProtest has been trending. People carry signs through the streets of South Africa pleading with people to stop killing their peers and loved ones. South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation Thursday, admitting that there is an uproar of sexual violence against women. He proposed numerous ideas to try and combat this issue. Will these proposals be enough though? Words are just words…they are nothing without action.

Women in South Africa are at risk for being attacked. According to Al Jazeera, a woman is murdered every three hours. Rape is just as rampant. In a 1994 journal by S. Armstrong, it goes into how rape is the assertion of male power. Under apartheid, rape of white women was the only rape that mattered; they found black women rape to just be apart of the struggle. In the journal, it also states that one out of four women have been sexually assaulted before the age of fourteen. These numbers are on the rise…more and more women are going through this treachery.

Will it be me? Will I be the next one to die? Will a situation like this be my fateful demise? Will it be my best friend’s? My Mother’s? My aunt’s? My future daughter’s? I couldn’t fathom sitting at home waiting for my baby girl to come home…only to have the police approach me, telling me that she’s been bludgeoned and raped to death. So many people are apart of the “sexual assault club” and frankly, I don’t want any new members. I think back to my experience, and I thank the Lord that I am still alive, because I didn’t have to be. I’m starting to lose faith in humanity. I’m thinking that there will never be change. And if there is, things will get a lot worse before it gets better.

Uyinene could’ve been me. It could’ve been anyone. So…who’s next?

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Journaling

Today’s Affirmations: Pain and Resolution

I re-watched an episode of Uncensored on the television station TV One. This particular episode was on a woman by the name of Tami Roman. For those of you that don’t know who she is, she is most known for being a cast member on the VH1 hit Basketball Wives, as well as being on the original season of The Real World. I didn’t really know much about her, but I really did learn a lot about her life. My Mother used to watch this series, and she would say that Tami could be a force to be reckoned with, and now that I have seen her episode of Uncensored, I can kind of see why.

This woman was sexually abused not once…but twice in her life. The first time was when she was eight years old by her Mother’s boyfriend. I wrote an essay on child sexual abuse. If you didn’t read it, please take the time to do so. The psychological turmoil a child can go through when it comes to being violated at an early age…the list goes on and on. Then while getting gas with a friend, she had her jewelry stolen off her body and was forced to drive to an abandoned warehouse where her and her friend were sexually abused for four days until the person finally let them go. The anger she must have felt; the anger and frustration. I am sure that incident caused her to put her walls up and go into attack mode when she senses that someone is attacking her. I kind of do the same thing. I recently had a person tell me that I was too aggressive, and that if I think someone is trying to pick a fight with me, I shut down or go off…there isn’t really much of a gray area. With that being said, I wanted to focus on pain, anger and of course resolution. Sometimes we can’t control the things that happen to us. The pain and trauma that is inflicted upon us against our will is not our fault. It has no bearing on who you are and has everything to do with them. The mantra is of course for healing any guilt or shame that comes with the wrongdoing that has been forced upon you, as well as soothing the anger and frustration that comes with remembering.

I am not at fault

I am not my trauma

I AM NOT MY TRAUMA

I am not my pain

I may be frustrated now, but I won’t be for the rest of my life

What they did has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them

It’s okay to be angry

It’s okay to not be okay

It’s okay to reach out for help

I will be healed

I will be whole

When I begin to think about the past, I will focus even more on the present and the future

I am my own hero

I am strong…but it’s okay not to be sometimes

This too shall pass

Things will get better

I will continue to have faith…and if I have none at the moment, it will come to me

I will exercise my emotions in a healthy and positive way

I will regulate my emotions when they seem to be too much

Positivity is just beyond the horizon

I will surround myself with people who care about my well being

I will surround myself with people who want me to do better

I will be around people who treat me the way that I should be treated

I will treat people better

I will evolve positively in all aspect of my life

All me hopes and dreams will come into fruition.

I will be alright

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions

A 12 Year Old Black Boy Is Still A Child

In the black community, a twelve year old is seen as grown. Tamir Rice was that very age when he was gunned down by the police in 2014 for playing with a toy gun. A 12-year-old black girl in New York was told to remove her clothing by the police because they thought that she had drugs on her person. Black children grow up much faster than they’re supposed to, and we can attribute that to how society depicts us. We’re aggressive, loud, and unruly individuals. Black boys are just being bred to be gang members and drug dealers, while young girls are fast; growing up to just be unwed Mothers. I don’t know how many times I was told not to be “fast” growing up by my parents, grandparents, and other adults in my life. Since when does wearing shorts constitute that I suddenly had an affinity for grown men? I understand now that they were saying this to warn me and keep me safe.

This notion has stuck with us ever since we were brought over as slaves in the 1700s; black men and women just being okay with whatever happens to their bodies, as if they were some type of doll; a possession. What angers me is the fact that our people are feeding into these lies, and are inflicting pain because of them. On this blog, I talk quite a bit about sexual assault. As a black woman who has been through my share, I know that it has a long lasting affect on a person. The amount of pain, anger, confusion, and frustration that one goes through is almost unbearable. I have literally thrown up over the stories that I have heard of black women who have been inappropriately touched by older men. Some women were as old as six being touched on by men ten times their senior. As we uplift the black queens that have endured this misconduct, we have to remember that this is the case for black men who have been through rape and sexual assault as well.

We must uplift them too, and listen to their stories. Almost every male that I have spoken to has told me some sort of story about them being sexual with a woman much older than he while they were under the age of 17 or 18. It doesn’t matter how old the person looks, if they are under the age of 18, they are not of legal age to consent to anything sexual. Hell, they aren’t really of legal age to consent to anything. Recently, a 21-year-old woman was confronted by her friends because she was having sexual relations with a 12-year-old. Not only did she do that, but she documented it on her phone, and gave the boy an STD (and you best believe that she knew she had it). One of the friends had let this woman into her home and shared it with her. She had the audacity to betray her trust and rape her friend’s little cousin. I wanted to kind of highlight the reasons why she engaged in this behavior with the young man. She claims that this boy was coming on to her and touching on her, and that’s how the incident started. I want to say that this is complete and utter bullshit…pardon my language. Even if the little boy did all of that, you didn’t have to have sex with him! Push him away and use it as a teaching moment, and if he’s being aggressive, tell someone about it. Tell him that what he was doing was not okay. Don’t indulge. Do you have no self control? I agree with the woman in the video telling her off. That was no excuse, she’s just trying to play victim. In an Instagram live that the boy’s cousin was giving, she said that the rapist mentioned that he started to look good to her after awhile. This woman also said that the rapist also claimed that it was more exciting to do something that was illegal. She thought that it was thrilling. She bragged that she was having sex with him…get this…four to five times a day! A day! For two weeks. This woman recorded their sexual encounters. She even sent them to a friend. You see, pedophiles are not just creepy white men in their late fifties with salt and pepper beards and cargo shorts, they can be young, attractive black women.

There were men in the comments section of the video saluting this young man, saying what had happened to him was not that bad. They think that a young boy having sex with an older woman is some type of prize that they should take pride in; like a badge of courage. A close family member of mine was nine years old when he lost his virginity to an 18-year-old. His brother, who was 12 years older than him allowed it to happen. He actually set it up. This person is one of the most intelligent people that I have ever met, and even he couldn’t see that what had happened to him was rape. This little boy was raped; there isn’t any other way that you can spin it. In our culture, we are brainwashed to think that black boys aren’t as affected by sexual assault as we are because wanting to have sex is in their nature. This whole scenario (without the disease) is seen as a fantasy. In a YouTube video, Lil Wayne was detailing how he lost his virginity at the age of 11 to a grown woman. The people in the room were laughing as he retold the story, but there was nothing funny about anything that he said. DeRay Davis in a VladTV interview said that he was raped as a little boy by two grown women in their thirties. He tried to make a joke about it, but again…there’s nothing funny. And you can’t forget R.Kelly. Robert Kelly…where do I begin? He stated that he had been sexually abused by a family member from the time he was seven or eight to 14 or 15. I know one of those abusers was his older sister, and someone probably abused her, and so on and so forth.

Going back to the essay that I wrote on child sexual abuse, the psychological effects that this young man may have will be brutal. This child could grow to resent women. He could shut down from physical contact all together. He could go the opposite route and engage in reckless sexual activity, putting himself and others in danger. He could exhibit severe emotional issues later on in life. He could show symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Sex may be distorted because of this situation. There is so much that this little boy could be going through. As a future psychiatrist (I am speaking it into existence) it is my mission to help people; guiding them out of guilt and shame from something that they didn’t even do. Like the little boy in the video, most of these boys are touched by a family friend. Most of them are assaulted between the ages of nine and 13.

Just because the person has a penis, it doesn’t mean that person is always the aggressor. Being raped is not a way of entering manhood; that happens naturally. If a 13 year old girl was raped by a 23-year-old, does that now make her a woman? No, it doesn’t does it? Why is it any different for a man? Tommy J. Curry of Texas A&M knows all too well about this subject. In his book, The Man-Not: Race, Class and Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, he goes into the lack of victim hood that black boys experience in terms of sexual assault. “The hyper-masculinity of the Black male brute resonates in the minds of observers and theorists as a denial of his sexual victimization and rape by women.” You can rape a man. Men aren’t just these sex crazed animals, they have boundaries as well. Like I stated earlier, even in our community, black boys are not seen as children. They are seen as brutes, savages…even monsters, just because of their race and the way they look.

The woman who raped this 12-year-old boy will not have it easy in life. Not only is she a rapist, but she’s a sex offender. The crimes that she committed can result in a few legal charges; statutory rape, child pornography, and attempted murder for the STD (I think). This woman is a predator and she needs psychological help. Talk to your sons. Talk to your brothers. Let them know that older women preying on them is not okay. Hear their stories and don’t ignore your friends when they tell you about their traumatic sexual encounters. Let them know that you support them and are sorry that those women did those things to them at such a tender age. Black men, don’t suppress your pain and bury it, it will only fester and explode in your face in the long run. Protect yourselves; your bodies, your minds, your spirits. Please get the help that you need. It’s alright to get help. It’s okay to reach out for guidance. You deserve to heal just like everybody else.

Video posted below:

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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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Journaling

Today’s Affirmations: In A Healing Place

I am in a healthy space

I am where I am supposed to be

I do not fear the future

I do not live by my past

I will keep going

I know I will be successful

I will achieve pure happiness

I will make my younger self proud

It’s never too late to change

I will change for the better

I am excited for what’s to come

I will heal in every way, shape, or form

Everything I need to heal is within me

I will grow positively

I will grow in self-love

You are not your faults or traumatic experiences

I am strong

I am amazing

I can be anything I want to be

I love myself

I love myself

I love myself

xoxo

 

 

 

 

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