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

Damaged Goods

I am damaged goods. It’s hard to admit that, but I am. I’m the dented soup can at Jewel-Osco. I’m the slightly torn sweater at the top of the shelf. I have been through so much, at this point, it’s starting to feel like novocaine; numb, a grand loss of feeling. I have opened up about my pain, and I have had a mix of reactions. This vulnerability has jeopardized friendships. It hurts when a person looks at you a different way. The conversations are no longer there. They are nervous around you; they think you’re a ticking time bomb. This admission has pushed “what could have been” relationships in my head. After being told everything under the sun about his life, I decided to share a little of mine (after asking if it was alright of course)…only to be told that I was “too much.” Whew! I can only imagine if I told him the rest of my story. He might have filed a restraining order against me. Jokes aside, that crippled me on the inside. I started to think that I didn’t deserve friends. I started to think that I didn’t deserve love. I started to think that I would never be able to reach a sense of normalcy. Will I ever heal? Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually…will things ever be at peace?

I am damaged goods, but so are you. Now wait…wait, don’t get upset. I know that isn’t something that someone wants to be called, but it’s true. Everyone is or has been damaged in one way or another. If a person tells another person that they are damaged, they need to find the nearest mirror and say the exact same thing. Everyone has been through something, no matter how big or small it may seem, we have all been through something. Whether it’s as small as failing a test, or being molested as a toddler, neither one of us is perfect. As an extremely Type A individual, this is the hardest thing to take in. I am not perfect. I am not this all mighty being. Now, I am nowhere near average. I am extraordinary, I am powerful…I have so much strength, I haven’t even unlocked all of it yet. However, I am still human. I mess up, and so do others. I messed things up for myself, and people have messed things up for me. I’ve tripped over rocks in the road and fallen into craters, but I didn’t stay on the ground, I got up and kept walking.

After throwing my own pity party, cake, party hats and everything, I decided to search “damaged goods” on YouTube. A little online self-soothing can do the soul good sometimes. I came across this video by Pastor Michael Todd. He has a whole series on being so called damaged. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says (I don’t consider being gay damaged), but some of the points he makes resonate. In the first video of the series, he used this very clever visual to let his audience get the picture. On the stage was a nicely wrapped present. It had a nice shiny red bow on it; if you saw this present underneath your Christmas tree, your eyes would probably be attracted to it first. As he continued to talk about life taking over, he began to defile this box. He cut the wrapping paper off of it. He scratched the cardboard underneath it. He poked holes in the box, poured chocolate syrup on the box…he just messed this box up. Looking on the outside, no one would want to choose that box now. It’s less than perfect. It’s dirty, it’s tattered, it doesn’t look like how it used to. But inside the box? Inside…nothing had been touched. Inside of the box was this expensive pair of tennis shoes; not a blemish on them. Tye Tribbet did something similar. The video actually went viral a little while ago. He had offered one of his church goers twenty dollars. He bent the bill. “Do you still want it?” The woman that he was offering it to did. He then started throwing the twenty dollars around, stomping on it every way that it goes. When asked if the woman still wanted it, she did. No matter if it has been stepped on or ripped…it’s still twenty dollars! It still has value. You still have value. The outside is so over hyped. A lot of people try to make the exterior look pretty and flawless because they’re afraid to put in the real work to fix the inside. I know I can say for myself I was like that. Going back to the shoe box scenario, on the outside I may have been through something, but on the inside, nothing is touched. The pain, the agony, the suffering…it cannot penetrate the soul. It can’t pierce my heart. It is not the definition of me.

That guy that told me that I was too much, I wish him well, but he was wrong. Being “too much” is just enough for me and the ones that are meant to be in my life. He wasn’t meant to be, and it hurt…it hurt. I cried, questioned my worth, almost thought of begging him to reconsider and try…TRY to love me. How pathetic is that? I’ll answer that for you…VERY! At that time, I thought that this person was going to be it for me. I thought we were going to grow as one and so on and so forth. When it comes to healing, sometimes you have to get down and dirty with yourself. I am hurt in my love life after putting my trust in people who had no business handling it and having it fail. I have a bad relationship with my body. Ever since I was a child, I have never felt my body was my own. Yes, I might think I look nice in that body con dress I bought from Pretty Little Things, but that’s just the surface level. How do I feel about it on the inside? I’ve been told that I was too chubby as a child, later going on to have people use my body and violate it. I feel a detachment with my body. I feel a detachment when it comes to my own emotions. I feel a detachment when it comes to myself. It’s like there are two of me, but one, they two halves will be a whole. You might not want to do it, and you may be a little stubborn, but once you pinpoint the area in where you are “damaged,” the healing will only come that much quicker.

Finding pleasure in pain is no way to live, it’s not. I’ve been holding on to so much anger; what people used to say to me, what people have done to me, what they said I wouldn’t do…that change is rooted in me. It’s time to push that stubborn spirit aside, and say enough is enough. I’m comfortable living in fear; struggling while trying to live my best life. Let’s dissect that sentence; struggling while trying to live my best life. Struggle? Best life? The two do not belong in the same sentence. When your best life comes, there will be no struggle. Now the journey there, well that might be a different story. We are constantly changing, so our “best lives” will always be changing. Whatever hit or miss that comes into your life may nick you, and it may leave a little scar, but it does not touch the soul. The soul is untouchable.

The soul is untouchable.

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Facts and Opinions, Uncategorized

#BlueforSudan

Social media might be seen as a nuisance in some people’s eyes, and it certainly can be when it comes to how much Millennials and us Generation Z’ers consume, but the information that is readily at our fingertips would not be accesses without it. There are so many things that could have been hidden in this world. Recently, the Sudan Massacres have been trending. With all the other hashtags that have come and gone, the ones about Sudan have remained. Over the course of about a year, I’ve heard certain things coming out of Sudan here and there, but with more explanations coming to light, I can now say that I think I understand what’s going on more so.

The problems within Sudan started about thirty years ago. Former Sudanese dictator….I mean president Omar al-Bashir was elected into office. During this time of terror, the countries economic system was completely obliterated, leaving an extensive amount of turmoil. In December 2018, the civilians of Sudan decided to mobilize and try to bring an end to the destruction that has been brought by Omar Bashir’s rule. Soon after, their actions began; peacefully protesting. Many of Sudanese people would do what they could to make a statement. They wanted al-Bashir to step down from his position of power. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests that the Sudanese people demonstrated began to turn violent and deadly. Dozens of people were injured…as well as killed.

A few months ago, February 2019, Omar Bashir calls for a state of emergency. This banned all gatherings that were unauthorized. After this, all hell broke loose. It didn’t matter that people were exercising their voiced in a non-violent way, security forces met them that way. It was no holds barred; whatever method of force they wanted to use was permissible.

On the date of April 6th, 2019, the largest peaceful protest sit in took place. It was the largest sit in within Sudanese history, and it took place right in front of the headquarters of the armed forces. Once again, more people are injured and killed trying to make a change. They wanted him out of office. Five days later, multiple government officials, as well as Omar al-Bashir, are in criminal custody. The Sudanese Transitional Military Council, or TMC, has been created by General Awad Ibn Ouf. He was the former minister of defense. Until the elections are held, the TMC announced that the military would rule over Sudan. The next day Ibn Ouf is replaced with Abdelfattah Burhan. The next few days, the TMC decide to still pillage through Sudan as a stalling tactic. Since then, women and children have been raped and killed. People were separated from their families. On June 9th, a nationwide call of disobedience has been called by SPA (Sudanese Professional Association).

With countless other individuals, I have changed my social media avatars to a standard shade of blue to show my solidarity with Sudan. But is that all we can do? I understand that money may be a bit more scarce in some people’s households, so any form of awareness is appreciated. I wish that blue avatars would wipe away the atrocities that are taking place in Sudan. There are always ways to donate, but it can be trick to find credible and ethical places to give as much help as possibly needed. There truly are people out there who don’t care about others, and they’ll do anything, even scam people who want to make a difference. There was an Instagram that was just exposed for capitalizing off of the lives that have been lost in Sudan. It’s despicable.

Places such as Unicef, University of Khartoum, Mercy Corps, and other organizations are accepting donations and trying to help Sudan in their times of trouble. If you know of any more, please spread them to others and donate what you can to them. Bustle.com gives a whole list, but if any of those are corrupt, please let me know.

The smallest amount can make the difference, but just getting the message out and explaining what’s going on over there can also be a way to make a change. Don’t reblog and retweet just to jump on a bandwagon. I mean yes, spread the word, but actually empathize with the people that are going through this situation. I know that if you were going through this, you would take any methods of help that you could.

Bustle Article: https://www.bustle.com/p/7-organizations-supporting-people-in-sudan-that-you-can-donate-to-right-now-18013743

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Self Care Saturday

The Easiest Earring DIY and Cleaning Up

It’s another Self Care Saturday! I haven’t really been taking the time that I need for myself. I’m currently in summer school, and I am studying my butt off so that I can come back to college on the right track. However, I thought that taking a little time for a simple craft would be much needed since I haven’t done it in a while. It was something relatively quick that I could do to take my mind off of class.

I love earrings. I feel practically naked without my earrings. That’s something that my Mother has always instilled in me; it doesn’t matter how bad you feel about yourself, always put some earring in your ears. My Mother has a wide array of jewelry in her jewelry boxes, and I hope to one day inherit it. However, as for now, I buy and create my own collection. Recently I had just purchased these dangling earrings (my favorite ones) that resemble faces. I got them off of Etsy, and I have been obsessed with them ever since I got them. I have always wanted to have an earring collection, and I have decided to create one now. At the moment, I think the eccentric looking earrings are just absolutely adorable. Another pair of earrings that I have purchased resemble little bags of fish; like the ones that you would buy at a county fair. That gave me the idea to create some earrings of my own.

This is the simplest more easy way to make earrings. You literally need two things; earring backs, earring hooks, and two sets of the same key chain. There you go…that’s it. That is literally all I used. Michael’s, the craft store, is a safe haven for me. When I walked in, everything was right there waiting for me to throw into my cart. I got a pack of lever clasps and a pack of kidney ear wire clasps. The key chains were inexpensive and no more than five dollars each. I bought two of three: golden pineapples, music notes, and gumball machines. All I had to do when I got home was take the earring clasps and loop them through the key chain, and voila…I had earrings.

After that, I took the time out of my day to de-tangle some of my jewelry. After packing up my things from college and going home, the earrings and necklaces seemed to have wrapped around each other. It took me a while to pick them out, but it was also therapeutic…almost like a puzzle. After that, I placed them in my earring holder. Each earring that I have tells a different story. Like the yarn tassel ones that I have, my friend has a little business and she made me those. I was no longer living in my old residence hall, I was in an apartment. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and I was able to catch up and just laugh with her. Or the white hoops. My Mother gave me those. She’s had them since the eighties. I decided to wear them to a party, and one fell out of my ear. I ended up finding on a concrete step outside of my friend’s house, where the party was located. Or the dangling earrings with the doves hanging from this turquoise globe. I complimented a woman at my church on them, and immediately, she took them out of her ears and gave them to me. I of course sanitized them, and I put them on the next day. It was soothing to go down memory lane, as well as clean out something that was cluttering up my space.

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The Real Life Handmaid’s Tale

I was sitting on the edge of my bath tub. I stared down at my knees and glanced up at the clock. Those three minutes seemed like three days. I had just taken a pregnancy test. I was going through the previous events that happened to me. I have told this story many times (if you really want to hear about it, it’s the first post that I’ve ever written on here). My first sexual experience was not consensual. Despite the person not necessarily going deep enough to consider what he did as penetrative, I was freaked out by the whole experience. My period was late, and the first thing that came to my mind was…oh shoot…I’m pregnant. I have since educated myself and now know the ins and outs of sex more so. I now realize that it would have been a tad hard for me to get pregnant. But I was eighteen, a freshman in college, and a complete and utter mess. I had a friend of mine buy a pack of pregnancy tests, and even though I told him that he didn’t need to stay to wait for the results, but he wanted to. He was a huge support system and I owe him the world for that. Three minutes were up. I said a quick prayer, and picked up the test. It came out negative. I was not expecting. When I tell you I had never praised the Lord as hard as I did that day! I ran down the stairs and told my friend the news. A difficult situation went over my head…but what if it hadn’t?

What if I was pregnant? What if this guy had gone deep enough? During the current abortion ban that’s going on, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Georgia’s governor signed something called a “Heartbeat” bill recently. This bill indicates that whenever the doctor is able to detect a heartbeat, an abortion is no longer able to be performed. Women typically don’t know their pregnant until after six weeks after conception. How fair is that? And there are no exemptions….none. Incest, rape, pre-existing conditions…none. According to a few sources, a young girl in Ohio is pregnant at eleven years old. This child…emphasis on child…was taken advantage of, and now because of something that she didn’t ask for, she may have to carry out the pregnancy to term if she stays where she is. How stupid is that? Ohio isn’t the only place that reckons that this ban is a good idea for their people. Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia are the states that have passed this legislation to ban abortions. People have babies at the age of eighteen all the time, but having a child during those circumstances would have been a disaster. I had just gone through something quite traumatic. I had just started experiencing a real taste of independence. My college career had just started. Mentally I was not ready to bring a child into this world. I live in a state that is more so liberal leaning, so abortion is still considered a fundamental right.

Imagine if abortions became obsolete. Imagine that any person who was pregnant who didn’t want to be, whether it be health reasons, rape, or just because you slipped up, would be turned away from having an abortion. If they try to get an abortion, they will face serious legal trouble. I really don’t think that legislators are thinking about this logically. Abortion may be banned, but that does not mean that it will never happen again. Ever heard of wire hangers? That method is going to become popular again. Women will resort to going to the black market to buy drugs to induce abortions. Women will be frantically searching natural home method abortions, and wonder why they are still pregnant weeks later. There will be more babies that are put into the foster system. The foster system can be quite corrupt and mentally damaging towards the children that are suffering through it. This means more children going through neglect and abuse. What if the woman who is pregnant is trying to leave domestic violence situation? Women would probably be more likely to stay in those relationships. Not to mention the psychological turmoil it would take on these women. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts would skyrocket.

This is scary. The fact that women (and especially women of color) aren’t seemingly seen as human beings with minds of their own is surprising only because of where we are at. Women are doctors, lawyers, business owners, whatever…and they’re still seen like all they are good for is staying in the kitchen bare foot and pregnant. This is just pure hatred towards women. Old, white, cisgendered men can not tell me what to do with my body….point blank period.

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What My Anxiety Looks Like

*this post keeps deleting itself…and I have no idea why….but here it is!*

It was a whirlwind; a tornado of conflict. I was fine one minute…not the next. I was sitting in the front of my classroom trying to focus on a Sigmund Freud documentary in my Theories of Personality class. My heart was racing, my mind was wandering, and I was sweating from my palms. The room was shrinking as my breaths became more labored. I felt as if I sat in that chair any longer, I would have fell through the tile. I grabbed my bag, a cute tote bag that I collected during my trip to New York (a story that I will tell soon), dropped my phone on the floor, and fled what felt like a near death situation. I remember sobbing and wailing in the Psychology office, sniffling on the shirt of the woman who had been behind the desk. I felt pitiful. This lady probably thought that I was insane, but she was in the Psychology office, so I’m assuming that she was a little more equipped than someone from say the Biology department. I was shaking like I was struck with hypothermia. This was a side swipe; it hit me out of nowhere. What happened? What was that? That, my friends, was an anxiety attack, and the largest one that I had by far. I’ve heard people detail their episodes and they sounded like nightmares; something straight out of a horror film. Over the course of about a year and a half, my anxiety had skyrocketed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to heal in a toxic environment, or because I’m piling too much on my plate…or a mixture of both.

Anxiety is commonly caused by external and environmental factors. In my case, an act of trauma on a college campus. An anxiety attack can spur anywhere at anytime. It’s also very common too. According to DoSomething.org, around ten percent of teenagers and forty percent of adults suffer from anxiety. I’m not good at math, so bare with me, but that’s more than three million cases. Anxiety is very much so treatable, but around two-thirds of the population There are so many different types of anxiety: GAD (generalized personality disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), agoraphobia, specific phobias, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Because I am not a licensed professional, here are some definitions of each one according to Beyond Blue (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety):

Generalized Personality Disorder:

A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.

Social Anxiety:

A person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

Panic Disorders:

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD;

This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD:

A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.

I will try my best to define agoraphobia and specific disorders. I use to think that agoraphobia was just being afraid of going outside, but it is a bit more intricate. Wide open spaces can trigger some type of anxiety. I would assume because you’re worried something may happen to you and you have no one to alert…but I am not a professional I wouldn’t know. Some people are startled by large crowds, or being in an enclosed space. Panic attacks and agoraphobia may go hand and hand, especially if a panic attack ensues in a public space. Specific phobias are phobias on one particular thing. For instance, my Mother is deathly afraid of snakes. Small snakes, big snakes, poisonous snakes, non-poisonous snakes…it doesn’t matter. I think it started when she was a child and saw a garden snake in her backyard. When my Grandmother was pregnant with her, a snake slithered across her foot, so I thought that was rather interesting that she developed this phobia. My friend will have a conniption fit if she sees any type of insect, even a ladybug. I remember I use to terrorize her when we were younger with cicadas that I found around my house when she came over. I didn’t think about the severity of it all, I was seven. Thankfully, cicadas don’t come back until I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m pretty sure I have grown from that sense of immaturity. Sorry girl, I love you though. These phobias can be compartmentalized into different categories, some common ones are: situations, animals (like my Mother and my friend), natural disasters, injury, and miscellaneous like clowns or vomiting.

I think as a person, it is normal to worry, but over time, I can clearly see that it is becoming quite intrusive in my life. During the end of my freshman year and my sophomore year, my anxiety was through the roof. One thing that I was really nervous about was walking to the dining hall to get food. My dorm was literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from the dining hall, and I would not go because I was afraid of people seeing me outside. I lost a lot of weight around that time. Now, it has subsided a little bit, but there still is a surge of uncertainty when I leave my house. I can’t really pinpoint what I’m worried about, but I get those butterflies in my stomach that fly up through my throat.

To help calm these nerves down, I have tried carrying notebooks around with me (you can learn more about that with my Guide to Journaling post). I also take deep breaths, or I try to focus my thoughts on a particular scene that I made up in my head. I always like the one where I’m wandering around Paris around the Louvre. The sky is infused with purple, pink, and a hint of blue. I’m in nice clothing and I’m exploring the city, eating macaroons and living freely. See? That’s a nice image to picture in your head right? Sometimes that’s not all you can do though. Trust me, if we could dream about out our fantasies as a way to aid anxiety, people wouldn’t need to be prescribed medication. However, medication is a way to get a bit of solace. There are also natural remedies. I have heard that incense and scents like lavender help calm the body down. Some people carry around crystals (and I actually have a few which I may do a post on one day). The same friend that I terrorized with cicadas actually offered me some CBD oil that her mom had bought her. I plan on trying it out quite soon, so maybe I’ll do a review on it later.

Whatever way works. there is a way to ease anxiety. One way may not work for everyone. Anxiety can get better over time, and it can also get worse. It depends on the person. There is a way to heal of course, but it may take some time to find the right method. There is a way to manage it.

 

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May! I welcome you with open arms! I know this post is a few days late, but it’s alright! It’s the thought that counts, right? In May, nature is blooming; there’s a certain type of rebirth taking place in the atmosphere. The weather’s warmth becomes more consistent. Kids are beginning to wrap up the end of the semester and prepare for summer. People are attending proms and graduations…it’s a beautiful transition from the old to the new. May is the month of renewal; a surge of energy that is needed to inspire and motivate the Earth to continue to create. Like many, we too require the motivation and inspiration in life to keep going, but sometimes, we have roadblocks.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. May has been a month to educate others on the importance of mental health, help people better their mental health, and celebrate the little victories that come with every step in the journey ahead. Slowly but surely, the curse is lifting, and the stigma is breaking. Mental health should not be something that’s seen as taboo. We all have brains (even if some people don’t seem to use theirs efficiently), and the brain like any other organ can be injured. It’s time to stop being afraid on speaking up about how we feel.

By dictionary definition, mental health is quite simple. It’s a certain level of psychological well being; the state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustments. Mental health can affect and influence the ability to enjoy life. Picture your ideal vacation spot. It’s right there; just a few steps forward and you’ll be there. But suddenly, this clear glass box falls around you, keeping you from moving anywhere. To me, that’s how I feel when my mental health isn’t A1. I can envision my happiness, but something is blocking it.

There are so many things that can cause mental health issues; the cause can be quite complex. From genetics, biological factors, past trauma, drug usage, or just the environment that you’re in…it can all have an effect on the brain.

Of course….*deep breath*…..MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT JUST A ONE RACE ISSUE! Every race struggles with it, however, there are races that are more hesitant to explore it and heal the wounds that are left. That is one of the reasons why black mental health is something that is so important to me, because even though we are making more and more of an effort, we can still do so much more. Our mental health matters more than we think it does. Mental health is not a white issue; if you have a brain you can suffer from mental health. It’s time to stop sweeping our health under the rug, I cannot stress that enough.

Everyone deserves to feel good. People deserve to love themselves. People deserve to give themselves a good life. Throughout the month of May, I will be talking a little bit more about my mental health, as well as other issues that effect the black mental health community that need to be addressed.

Peace and blessings

xoxo

 

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