R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Man and woman drinking tea at table in cafe, smilingBy Jennifer Primeaux

Respect, by definition, is when we have admiration for someone or something that results from their abilities, qualities or achievements. People will have various definitions of respect, and how they define it may help us understand what respect means for them.

In regards to relationships, the best way to gain respect is to give respect. When people feel valued and loved, they are more able to return these feelings, which can build a mutual respect within the relationship. If one does not give respect, they cannot expect to be given respect and will likely be met with resistance.

When explaining respect, I give an anecdote about dirty socks. If I leave dirty socks on the floor, it doesn’t really bother me, but I know it really irritates my partner. Then, we fight over it. Most people would think that this fight is over the fact that there are dirty socks, but the underlying problem is the feeling of disrespect.

Another important aspect of respect is self-respect. One of my favorite memes right now reads, “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” This means putting your needs above others, and learning to say no when others want you to say yes. And being unapologetically YOU! You are the one that has to live your life and others are given the same opportunity with theirs. Allowing someone else to run your life is not a positive way to respect yourself. Keep in mind, when you start implementing your self-respect boundaries, you will likely be met with resistance. But go on, flex your self-respect muscle, because the more you use it, the easier it will be to continue.

What is your definition of respect?

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Depression — is like a leaky faucet

Young woman sitting alone looking out windowBy Jeanine Jantz

Depression. Sometimes a specific event can cause it to rise quickly but it can also creep up so slowly until you feel overwhelmed like there is no way out. Think of depression like a leaky faucet. Initially, the small things appear bearable and before you realize it, there’s an overflowing bucket of depressive feelings.

Depression is often correlated with the common feelings of loneliness and what one feels are unbearable mistakes or a general fear of an irreparable future. Those who have experienced depression seem to have in common a hopeless sense of the future. They begin with hurt and pain related to experiences. At times this is coupled with predisposition to depression due to a general chemical imbalance in the brain or family history. Experiences, whether inflicted by others or self-inflicted, often appear to be unbearable or embarrassing. As a result the beginnings of a wall are created. Bricks are slowly added to create their wall. These bricks are often composed of resentment, self-pity, hatred, rationalization, anger, jealousy, frustration and doubt.  Construction on this wall is done in a mode of survival to protect oneself. It occurs because at the time, these feelings are unbearable or there is not a safe place to allow these feelings to come out. The wall feels good because it’s a mode of defense and we feel protected.

However, as life continues it becomes much easier to add bricks to this wall. Before you know it there is a wall strong enough to defend any city from a breaking dam. At this time it begins to no longer be a defense. Rather the person no longer knows what to do or where to go. This wall that is strong enough to defend you also shuts you off from the outside world — the beauty and nature of others. We are no longer able to see that others want to help or carry our burdens with us because we are confined to the inside of our wall. This is when feelings of loneliness, depression and fear begin to overwhelm us. Almost like the water has come over the top of the wall except now there’s a feeling that you’re drowning inside with no way to escape. This in turn leads to a fear that we no longer have control of our situation. Taking control through suicide, an idea that is more peaceful and comforting than the fear of what seems like the unending pain, can start to seem like the only option. The person doesn’t see the small weakness in the wall they constructed that may allow the emotional pain to drain away or to allow other caring individuals to provide the help to create a new passage out and begin to break down the wall one stone at a time.

If you have fear and hopelessness I urge you to seek help. Professional therapy is your best way to break out of this wall. There are various therapeutic techniques that can help decrease this pain and allow for light to shine in through the wall. Cognitive based therapy, brief solution focused therapy, lifespan integration and dialectal behavioral therapy are a few techniques that can help. These techniques range from traditionally talking about experiences and feelings to re-setting your response to triggers and events through utilizing a simple timeline and providing specific exercises to learning new skills to manage emotions. I would encourage you to take the first step to ask for help. While this is often fearful, it can be liberating to talk with someone that is non-judgmental and it offers a great deal of hope. There are many individuals out there who have a desire to help you walk through this portion of life and can help empty your depression bucket.

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Autism Awareness

Word cloud Autism Awareness related

By Michelle Scheu

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. This gives us an opportunity to look at some of the trending issues facing families and consequently, the mental health treatment community.

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. Mental health specialists are finally acknowledging through the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5) what families have known for a long time — the label of “autism” doesn’t really describe the continuum of impairments that people can experience. Acknowledging this can bring more effective treatment as well as hope to individuals and families facing a diagnosis of autism. One only has to look at the life of Temple Grandin, PhD to understand that people with autism are capable of great things, just like everyone else, with the proper support and intervention.

Here are some facts about autism:

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a complex set of neurological disorders that severely impair social, communicative and cognitive functions.
  • In 2014, approximately 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls) were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States.
  • It is possible to detect signs of autism in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways.
  • Parents who notice these signs or are concerned their child is not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatrician and request a developmental screening.
  • Scientists agree that the earlier a child receives early intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention.
  • The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis and occupational, speech and physical therapy. Families may benefit from psychotherapy to assist them in supporting the family member with autism.
  • There is no cure for autism, and most individuals with ASD will need some level of support and services throughout their lifetime.

Help is available. If you want more information regarding autism and autism spectrum disorders, here are a few places to start. These sites not only have the latest information, but can also help you find a qualified provider in your area.

 

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Self-regulation

Woman with two young children running outdoors smilingThis is the second in a series of posts on trauma and trauma informed culture. Look for future posts from both FCS bloggers and some special guest bloggers over the next several months! This month’s post was written by Debra Schartz-Robinson, LSCSW, the Director of Clinical Services on the Youthville residential campus in Dodge City.

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation is one of the six core strengths identified by Dr. Bruce Perry in his Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). It is the ability to notice and control primary urges such as hunger and sleep, as well as feelings such as frustration, anger and fear. Developing and maintaining this strength is a lifelong process that is connected to the relationship between an infant and caregiver. Healthy growth depends on the child’s experience of this relationship and the maturation of the brain.

Why self-regulation is important

The ability to put a thought between an impulse and the action taken is an essential life skill. This skill is critical in building relationships, tolerating differences and being aware of the needs of others. We are not born with this skill. It must be learned, and the easiest, most natural time to learn is in early infancy through attuned care giving from a parent who is skilled at regulating their own emotions.

Signs of struggle

Children who do not develop the skill of self-regulation will have problems sustaining friendships, learning and controlling their behavior. They are more likely to express anger through physical aggression, express themselves in ways that are hurtful to others and to over react to stimuli in the environment. In general, children who struggle with self-regulation are more reactive, immature, impressionable and more easily overwhelmed by threats and violence. Here are some examples:

  • Does poorly in unstructured or free time
  • Struggles with transitions
  • Has difficulty with attention, listening and acquiring new skills
  • Acts impulsively
  • Lashes out at others without warning
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Struggles in group activities
  • Often expresses hurt or anger by acting out aggressively

What you can do to help increase self-regulation

  • Model self-control with your words and actions
  • Step in quickly to stop any hurtful action or language that you hear
  • Teach conflict resolution skills
  • Praise the youth when you see the slightest effort toward thoughtful actions, remarks, reactions and problem-solving skills.
  • Have the youth participate in patterned repetitive activities to stimulate growth in the lower brain
  • Understand the youth’s triggers and remove stimuli from the environment
  • Pre-teach with the youth before taking them into potentially triggering or highly stimulating environments
  • Develop rituals around transitions
  • Provide structure and predictability

Self-regulation is a universal set of skills that helps us manage our responses to things that happen in life. Learning to effectively regulate feelings thoughts and behaviors can significantly improve one’s quality of life. Kids are happier when they are emotionally regulated, and you will be, too!

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Sexual assault of males

ThinkstockPhotos-177024675By Michelle Scheu

“When Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau was forced to go public in 1997 with an affair she was having with her former sixth grade student, Vili Fualaau, after she became pregnant with his child, it was the teacher-student sex scandal heard around the world.”

This is an excerpt from a recently aired segment of the ABC News program 20/20. I watched this with interest to see how the topic of a female sex offender and a young male victim would be handled and I have to say that I am disappointed. Consider the wording in the excerpt. When did a 34-year-old woman sexually abusing a vulnerable 13-year-old boy become an “affair”? Would the words “sex scandal” have been used if this story was about a 34-year-old man who had sex with a 13-year-old girl? I think not. This is a story about the violation of boundaries, the manipulation of trust and about using a child to fulfill adult needs. It is the story of a young man who had many choices taken away from him at the age of 13.

How many of you had a crush on a teacher at some time in your education? I would venture to say most of us have. Think how different your life would be if your teacher knew you had a crush on him or her and decided to use this normal childhood rite of passage to manipulate you into a sexual relationship. There is nothing “special,” another word so often used to describe abusive relationships, about this.

Why is it so hard for society to see adolescent males as victims, particularly of females? This can make it difficult for men to see themselves as victims. I know young men who refer to being involved in a situation like this as “getting lucky.” Others feel hurt, anger and betrayal and often suffer additionally from a lack of support from family and society for what happened to them.

The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control tell us that one in six men will be victimized by sexual assault before age 18. These statistics are likely low. Males tend to not report sexual abuse and may feel pressure to be proud of early sexual activity, regardless of whether it was wanted or not.

As sexual assault awareness month comes to an end, please take the time to talk prevention to the boys you love just as you would to the girls. Don’t accept the minimization of sexual assault of young men in the media or casual conversation. Hold women as accountable for being sexually inappropriate as you would men. Examine your own beliefs about teaching all youth about healthy sexuality.

Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/US/mary-kay-letourneau-fualaau-vili-fualaau-detail-path/story?id=30160737

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What is consent? — revisited

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, let’s look again at this previous post from An Untangled Life (Sept. 25, 2014).  Help us raise awareness about prevention and treatment issues, and provide support to survivors courageously living life every day.

no_consentBy Michelle Scheu
As I read Emily’s latest post about rape culture, I started thinking about the concept of consent. Consent is the basis of all healthy relationships, but especially sexual relationships. People often assume that the absence of the word “no” means there is consent. That can lead to confusion, misunderstanding and in some cases, criminal charges. Consent means that a person fully understands what is about to happen AND agrees to it. True consent has several requirements:

  • Both parties are emotionally and intellectually equal
  • Honesty
  • A full understanding of the situation
  • Permission to disagree or to refuse without penalty or harm
  • Equal power in the relationship

Let’s walk through some examples:

  • A teenager asks a peer who is in special education to touch them sexually and the peer says yes. A person with an intellectual disability might say yes because he or she thinks it would be fun or because he or she is curious. But a person with a low IQ does not necessarily understand about sex, the laws concerning sex, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. The two individuals are not emotionally or intellectually equal.
  • A person is not honest about having multiple sexual partners. Without this information, the person he or she is having a sexual encounter with cannot make an informed decision about whether this is a safe and positive choice.
  • People who are drunk, high or passed out may not have a full awareness of the situation. I had a friend in college who woke up in a room with more than one man and no recollection of what had occurred. This is not consent.
  • If your boyfriend tells you he will break up with you if you do not have sex with him, this is not consent. Getting hit because you won’t have sex is not consent. Being threatened with losing your job if you don’t tolerate unwanted sexual contact is not consent.
  • A mutual relationship has the connotation of equal power. Examples or relationships in which there is a significant difference in power include teacher/student, employer/employee, therapist/client and doctor/patient.

When two people both agree to an act, understand what is about to happen, are allowed to say no, and are both emotionally and intellectually equal, positive sexual relationships are created. With consent, a relationship that is beneficial to all involved can occur.

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Rape Culture — revisited

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a time to examine our beliefs about sexual assault, raise awareness of prevention and treatment issues and provide support to survivors courageously living life every day. This is a previous post from An Untangled Life (Sept. 18, 2014) on the subject for you to consider again.

rapecultureBy Emily
What do you think of when you hear the word rape? Many people only think of rape in the most stereotypical terms: a man jumps out at a woman from a dark alleyway when she’s walking home or breaks into her home and sexually brutalizes her. While there are many rapes that are committed by strangers to the victim, according to the Center for Disease Control, it is much more common for a person who is close to the victim to sexually assault them. According to a 2012 CDC survey, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men reported being raped in their lifetime. Approximately 1 in 20 women and men experienced some type of sexual violence other than rape. In a nationally representative survey of adults, 37.4% of female rape victims were first raped between ages 18-24 (typically college age). Among female rape victims, perpetrators were reported to be mainly intimate partners, followed by acquaintances, strangers, and lastly, family members. Male rape victims reported that their attackers were mainly acquaintances. Rape results in about 320,000 pregnancies a year.

Why is sexual assault not a topic that has an adequate and well known definition? Why is it that 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime but only a fraction of these are reported and even fewer prosecuted? One reason is Rape Culture. It’s a phrase that makes most people feel uncomfortable and brings out hostility in others. According to Wikipedia, rape culture is “a phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.” This often manifests in a cultural norm where we teach young girls how not to be raped instead of teaching young men that rape and sexual assault in any form is unacceptable. This idea that rape is pervasive enough in our culture that is goes unnoticed makes many people squirm in their seats. And like most people, they want to deny it.

“Rape isn’t acceptable! Everyone knows that! There’s no rape culture because everyone knows that it’s wrong!!!”

What is so dangerous about rape culture is the idea that it isn’t really “rape” if it doesn’t fall under the lines of the stranger attack described above or isn’t violent. This completely ignores sexual coercion (c’mon baby you don’t love me if you won’t do this please please, please), unwanted sexual contact (the guy in class who always ‘accidentally’ touches your butt when you try to sit down), and unwanted noncontact sexual experiences. When these violations are reported, they are often disbelieved and demeaned by authorities and society at large. Both of the scenarios I described would probably be considered “normal” by most people and “things women just have to deal with” because after all, “boys will be boys!” This leads to the dangerous and harmful idea that women are accountable for their own sexual assaults and rapes.

A dangerous idea that can lead to this type of blame is that women are expected to be sexually available for the consumption of men at all times. Men are allowed to enter female spaces and comment on the “sexiness” of women’s dress, appearance, and behavior. Women are expected to take in this criticism and become “the perfect woman,” but are subsequently punished for their own sexuality and dress. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people ask “Well, what was she wearing? Was she drinking? Why did she go to that party if she didn’t want this to happen?” This style of thinking blames the victim for her assault based on her behavior and acquits her attacker. What society must understand is that women have a fundamental right to not be assaulted. This may seem like a “well, duh” statement, but a surprising number of people make comments that directly contradict this.

It doesn’t matter what she was wearing. It doesn’t matter if she was drinking or using drugs. It is not the victim’s responsibility if someone chooses to violate that right.

Opponents of rape culture say that it isn’t real because it’s impossible to define and there are no real world examples of it. As a woman, I can, with utter conviction, disprove that line of thinking because I live rape culture every day. I am expected to be attractive and sexually available, but not of my own motivation, otherwise I’m a slut. I walk to my car from work at night with keys between my knuckles. For those who demand more proof, here are some examples:

Rape culture is my mother telling me before I went to college to never put my drink down and to always leave a party with a friend and never feeling the need to tell my brother the same.

Rape culture is one of my best friends getting raped the first week of the semester and being told by the college chaplain that she didn’t believe that her attacker “did anything wrong.” My friend honestly believed the rape was her fault because she didn’t run away before he locked the door.

Rape culture is the fact that I’ve taken more self-defense classes than all of my male friends combined.

Rape culture is the reality that people are more likely to help if you yell “Fire!” than if you tell “Rape!”

You may be asking me, “Well Emily, if nothing I do will make a difference, then just how do I try to stop rape culture?” Well you’ve already made the first step, which is realizing that those boogey man rapes that your mom warned you about aren’t the biggest problem. The second is to observe the media you are consuming and the ideas about sexual assault and rape that this media conveys. Third, change the language you use concerning sex and sexually offensive behaviors and urge others to do the same. Watch, learn, and most of all, speak up. All people deserve sexual safety.

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Stopping sexual assault is everyone’s responsibility

Everyone is responsible

By Michelle Scheu

Recently, a member of our staff gave me this list to post on social media:

10 Top Tips to End Rape

  1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.
  2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.
  3. If you have ever pulled over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.
  4. If you are in an elevator and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.
  5. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window or spring out at her between parked cars or rape her.
  6. Use the buddy system! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you when in public.
  7. Don’t forget: It is not sex with someone who’s asleep or unconscious — it’s RAPE!
  8. Carry a whistle! If you are afraid you may assault someone “by accident,” you can hand it to the person you are with so they can call for help.
  9. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. If you have every intention of having sex later on with the woman you are dating, regardless of how she feels about it, tell her directly that there is a chance you will rape her. If you don’t communicate your intentions, she may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her and inadvertently feel safe.
  10. Don’t rape.

Thought provoking, isn’t it? There is a growing awareness, both in this country and abroad of how attitudes about sex and gender contribute to rape culture. You only have to Google “Delhi Bus Gang Rape” to get the picture. Up pop things like “a girl is more responsible for rape than a boy” and “the victim shouldn’t have fought back.” “That man wasn’t born thinking those things, he learned them somewhere.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing these kinds of attitudes only happen in other countries, but the truth is it happens here, too, and closer to home than we might ever want to believe. When my daughter went away to school, we had a conversation about protecting herself from sexual assault. Later, she told me how angry that conversation made her. Not because we had the conversation or its content, but because I did not have a similar conversation with her brother. And she was right. If a person who has spent their entire adult career helping people heal from the experience of sexual assault can fall victim to this kind of shortsighted thinking, we have a lot of work to do. We must focus on prevention instead of just protection. Prevention that is aimed at all genders, not just women. Prevention that comes from an open discussion of ideas, not one limited by one end of the ideological spectrum or the other. Be informed. Talk to your daughters and your sons.

The above list is part of a campaign by Rape Crisis Scotland to prevent sexual assault. If you want more information about this effort, you can find it at http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/.

Other resources you might find helpful are:

http://nomore.org/

http://wichitasac.com/

http://www.kcsdv.org/

Stopping sexual assault shouldn’t fall only on the shoulders of women. Stopping sexual assault is everyone’s responsibility.

 

 

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Maybe my teenager and I communicate pretty well after all!

80700337By Diane Allen Cunday

Sometimes, talking to a teenager is like speaking a foreign language.

Dr Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies related to communication elements and came up with a statistic that ninety three percent of communication is nonverbal.

The other day my teen daughter and I were talking and she gently reminded me that she felt our conversation was not going so well.  She stated that it was not the content of the conversation but rather the “nonverbal” vibe she was getting.

My daughter first pointed out that my arms were crossed, which to her felt that I was closed off and not open to listening to her point of view.  In actuality, I was cold, however it was her perception to be mindful of.

Next, she stated that at times, my facial expressions seemed unforgiving, “like you are always giving the mom look.”  Maybe next time I should position myself so that our living room mirror is behind her so I can be more intentional to lose the “mom look” during meaningful conversations.

Third, my daughter indicated that the tone of the conversation did not feel supportive.

Lastly, she stated that as she became frustrated….(what, a sixteen year old frustrated?) she felt her personal space was not respected.  Most people require 18 inches to four feet, depending on the situation, culture and other specifics,  this may vary.  I still can’t believe she did not want to hug it out!

The way we communicate nonverbally is as important if not more important that the words we choose. The fact that my daughter could identify and articulate her concerns is pretty cool,  maybe my teenager and I communicate pretty well after all!

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Expressing affection on Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank

valentine's day cookies

By Michelle Scheu

Bah Humbug. Oh, you think I am in the wrong holiday season, do you? Nope, Saturday is Valentines Day. The commercialism of affection and appreciation is rampant and alive and well in 2015. Unfortunately, this often sets unrealistic expectations for millions of American women and warps what could be a great opportunity for people to genuinely express their appreciation for each other.

One of my guilty pleasures is a teen chick flick John Tucker Must Die. In the movie, three girls who discover they have all been told they were “the one” by their high school heartthrob, band together to get revenge by making him fall in love with a fourth girl, who is to break his heart. One of John Tucker’s first steps to woo this girl is to send hundreds of roses to her, delivered in the middle of chemistry class. Every girls’ fantasy for romance, right? Unfortunately, this sends a message that the level of care and affection someone has for you is directly related to how much money they spend and how lavish the gift is. Call me crazy, but I would rather receive a single daisy from someone who never sends flowers than to be inundated with expensive bouquets.

So, how can you express affection and appreciation to those you care about without breaking the bank? Here are a few ideas:

  • Make cards. They don’t have to be fancy. Nothing says “I love you” like taking the time to make something. Think you are not creative enough to make your own? Go to Pinterest where you can poach other people’s ideas https://www.pinterest.com/kimpaq/valentine-cards/ or just do what I do and cut out red and pink hearts and glue them together.
  • Write a note of appreciation. It only takes a few minutes to let someone know how you feel about them. In a world where most of what we hear is negative, a few moments of positive feedback can make all the difference.
  • Buy an individual candy bar and tie a ribbon around it to give as a gift. Really, who needs that whole big heart shaped box of chocolates anyway?
  • Bake cookies. Everyone likes cookies. And if your special someone can’t eat cookies, there are plenty of small snack ideas to give that are vegan, gluten free or ideal for the person with diabetes. I have found that tailoring your gift of food to special dietary needs is always appreciated. Food is nurturance in the most basic sense.
  • Make coupons. One of my favorite gifts from my kids was a set of coupons made on scrap paper that offered to take out the trash, stop arguing, etc. that I was to use when needed. Cost-$0. Meaningfulness-priceless.
  • Spend time together. You don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant. A picnic in the middle of the living room or going for ice cream works too. It is the time together focused on each other that is important, not the setting.
  • Tailor your flower giving. Did you know that different flowers have different meanings? http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/aboutflowers/flower-meanings . Say what you mean and mean what you say. An accompanying card with a note about why you chose this particular flower for this particular person speaks volumes.

And if you want to learn about the history of Valentines Day to somehow include in your message to that special someone, check this out:

http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day

Remember that good feeling you got back in the third grade when you got to open your nicely decorated Valentine box to read the Valentines you got from everyone in the class (because back then your mom made you give a Valentine to everyone whether you liked them or not) and then you got to eat sugar cookies and talk to your friends instead of doing math? To me, that is how Valentines Day, and every day, really, should make you feel.

Happy Valentines Day!

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