Recognizing and Protecting Oneself from a Cyber Fraud (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are countless ways out there that cyber frauds and hackers can attempt to trick people, online, for whatever reasons.  In the past two years, I have become very active, online.  During that time, I have also observed a number of my contacts’ e-mail accounts to be hacked, as well as having experienced several attempts by cyber fraudsters to try to trick me and/or gain my trust in regard to doing business for them, meeting them, and beginning an intimate relationship with them.  This week, after having been contacted by an individual through LinkedIn, and realizing after one communication after having connected with “him,” online, that he is a cyber fraud, I have been inspired to share some suggestions regarding how to identify such people, and how to protect oneself from them.

We live in such a computer and technology-based society now that it is difficult to imagine what life may be like without it.  This week, I did a mental count of the number of online accounts that I maintain, and those that I use with regularity (from at least once per week to once per month).  For different banks, organizations, associations, educational institutions, e-mail providers, retailers, and other entities, I realized that I have 40 online accounts, using 30 of them with regularity!  The other 10 online accounts are maintained, but I might check them only once per year because they do not hold extremely sensitive or financial information.  Two other accounts that I have are only accessible by phone, through an automated system.  So, in all, I currently have 42 technologically-based accounts!  Only a few years ago, I did not have any online accounts, so the number “40” is staggering!

So, that means there are at least 40 online accounts that I have within which cyber frauds and/or hackers could potentially access my personal and private information.  Knowing that, I am aware of and do my best to screen contacts and/or connections as much as possible.  Regarding LinkedIn, for example, I am an open-networker, which means that I am willing to connect with most anyone.  My personal conditions are that the person should have at least 20 or so connections, as well as a profile that is thorough, at least somewhat verifiable, and relatively legitimate in appearance.  I have about 1,100 connections on LinkedIn, which is great for professional networking, however I have received a number of requests to become intimately involved with some male connections.

These requests are typically from men whose account is “based” in another country, such as the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Iran, for examples.  Usually, I respond to the men that I appreciate their interest, but that such a relationship is quite impossible because they live outside of my country (the United States), or I just ignore their communications and/or sever connections with them.  These are a few ways of protecting oneself from a potential cyber fraud.  There are always those men who believe that a single woman will fall for any man who wants to become romantically involved with her.  It never ceases to amaze me.

Another way of recognizing a cyber fraud is one who e-mails you and wants money, after having hacked and used a contact’s e-mail address to make his or her request.  This has happened to three of my professional connections, that I know of, through LinkedIn.  Typically, the unsuspecting individual’s account is hacked, and is used to send a mass e-mail to all of the contacts of that person.  What I have noticed that is usually in the hacker’s message is something like, “urgent, need help” or “please send money immediately,” etc.  Another hacker who used the e-mail address of one of my contacts included a link in the message regarding registering with a work-from-home business (scam) that was supposed to “phenomenally” increase one’s income by six-fold.  After receiving both of those e-mails, I contacted the authentic holders of those e-mail accounts and asked them if they had been hacked, and surely enough, they had been.

One man who was hacked also runs a non-profit, and stated to me that all of his contacts had been compromised due to the hacking.  The person who hacked his account stated that “he” was vacationing in another country, lost his passport, and was at the consulate, needing $2,000 to return to the United States.  I knew this man would never ask any such thing, and that is why I contacted him, through a separate e-mail message, to inquire about whether or not he had been hacked.

Also take care to notice that hackers and/or cyber frauds typically have poor or very poor English.  While I always receive spam mail from people asking me to be a financial intermediary for them to transfer countless $1,000s as a third-party to their bank account, if one ever notices, those messages typically use poor and incorrect English.  Just this week, the connection that I made through LinkedIn “appeared” to be legitimate on the surface, however his “base” location is in Minnesota, while he identified that he graduated from college in Canada (from a degree program that is not offered at that school), and that he works at a bank in the United Kingdom.  Apparently, his wife died of cancer, and he is a single parent, but his cousin has custody of his young son in Wisconsin, while he visits him only occasionally because he lives and works in the UK.  How ridiculous is that?  I suppose it could happen, but the biggest identifier of a cyber fraud in that situation is the person’s extremely poor use of English, with many errors.

Additionally, I also have a contact whose e-mail address has been hacked by an eBay vendor in New Zealand.  Apparently, this person purchased an item from the UK, but the original vendor for the item is in New Zealand (or the buyer’s information was sold to a company in New Zealand).  This individual’s e-mail address has been hacked and used in attempts to gain business for the hacker in New Zealand.  This has been discovered by the person whose e-mail account was hacked printing out the html information and codes that can be found by clicking on the “view sender” portion of the e-mail message, without even having to open the message.  Reading the “view sender” information without actually opening an e-mail is a wonderful tool for protecting oneself from cyber frauds and hackers, particularly when receiving messages from individuals who are unknown, or even those who are known, but who appear to be sending suspicious messages (because their accounts have actually been hacked and used by the hacker).

Lastly, some of the most risky situations, online, may not only be through the hacking of financial information, but by people attempting to connect on dating websites.  One often sees commercials on TV and advertisements, online, about the joys and wonders of online dating websites.  Give me a break!  I have been a member of several such websites within the past five years, and am no longer a member of any of them.  First of all, no membership fee should be required to join such sites – they are just another way to take one’s money.  Next, many such websites do not verify the identity or authenticity of their members, particularly those that do not require membership fees.  And, lastly, one does not actually know whether or not the person whom one may be trying to connect with is representing himself or herself correctly, and/or whether or not he is honest.  Those are the biggest downfalls of online dating websites – you really don’t know what you’re getting, and you wonder if it is really worth the risk to find out.  Often, the risk is not worth the rare reward that may be acquired, particularly if someone is seeking a serious, long-term partner with similar values.

Therefore, a further way to protect oneself, online, is to sign out, log off, and shut down one’s computer when one has finished using it.  This is imperative in a public place, and/or even in one’s place of work.  In the privacy of one’s home, there is greater protection because strangers do not have access to one’s information.  However, in families in which there is conflict, strife, and/or issues such as divorce, one must take care to keep one’s online accounts protected.  A person should not allow another to use and/or have access to his/her online accounts unless they are a person who is trusted with one’s life.

Sometimes, people desire information from you to use against you.  Sometimes, people just take or steal such information for their own potential gain.  Having observed and/or experienced such situations, myself, it is important to take steps to protect oneself as much as possible.  Therefore, these are just a few ways to recognize and protect oneself from cyber frauds, hackers, and potential threats to one’s online accounts and personal safety, particularly those that hold personal, private, and/or financial information.  Certainly, this is not an exhaustive list, however they are ways that I have found better protect me from online harm.  I hope they are also helpful to you in identifying and protecting yourself from harm, online, as well.

“Society Must Hold Offenders Responsible, Not Punish Victims” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Mother Nature Crying (Retrieved from http://www.free-hdwallpapers.com/wallpaper/abstract/mother-nature-crying/22445, January 11, 2014)

Mother Nature Crying (Retrieved from http://www.free-hdwallpapers.com/wallpaper/abstract/mother-nature-crying/22445, January 11, 2014)

Very often in our society, we are informed of criminal offenders who are held responsible and accountable for their actions.  There are those in our society who work hard to see to it that perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice, that they are removed from the greater society for a period of time, and so that, potentially, they do not commit the same or similar types of crimes in the future.  There are many people, such as a police officers, attorneys, prosecutors, and judges whose hearts and minds are in the right place when it comes to holding responsible and accountable those who commit crimes, particularly violent crimes, including sex crimes.

Conversely, there are also times when people who have committed crimes are not held responsible or accountable for their crimes, nor are they ever required to answer for their criminal actions.  In these situations, there may or may not be extenuating circumstances in which evidence has been removed or destroyed by the perpetrators and/or accomplices; corroboration and/or substantiation of facts regarding the crime may not be obtained; confessions of those who committed the crimes were not secured; evidence and/or facts regarding the crime were concealed or never located; and other reasons.

Sometimes, in cases involving child sexual abuse, there is the possibility that police, attorneys, prosecutors, and/or parents do not desire to place children on the stand in court to testify against the person(s) who assaulted them.  In other situations, it is possible that a particular network of people, such as athletes or fraternity brothers in a college, promote and live a culture of disrespect and/or violence, covering up for each other when sexual assaults are committed.  Or, has often occurred in the Roman Catholic Church when religious have committed sex crimes, they may be protected by higher authorities in the Church.

Many years ago, a local pediatrician in my area informed me that preschools are commonly places where young children are sexually abused.  I have always remembered that, and have often wondered why doctors do not do more to inform about this and/or take measures aimed at protecting children.  Too often, physicians are more interested in treating a problem or issue after it arises rather than seeking to inform, educate, protect, and prevent such things from occurring in the first place.

In 2007, there were two police reports made regarding a preschool teacher at Sola Fide Lutheran Church Preschool in Lawrenceville, Georgia, describing her repeated sexual abuse of children, aged 2-4, who were in her care.  Four children were identified as having been repeatedly emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by the preschool teacher.  All four children were interviewed by a special investigator with the county police department.  Out of fear, three of the four children denied any sexual abuse by the teacher.  Without corroboration, evidence, or a confession by the accused, the case was unable to be substantiated and was closed.  Without a formal charge or conviction against the teacher, the case was never made public.

One of the children who had been identified as having been abused was the school principal’s two-year-old daughter, who regularly participated in classes with the three and four-year-olds that were taught by the teacher.  In these classes, there was an assistant teacher, as well as a volunteer.  The lead teacher perpetrated the abuse that was ignored and overlooked by the other two women.  Abuse was perpetrated in the bathroom, storage room, and empty classroom in the trailer that was used for classrooms.  During the investigation, the principal destroyed evidence related to the abuse so that it was never identified or recovered by police.  Following the close of the investigation, the school promoted the lead teacher who had perpetrated the abuse by providing her with her own classroom and extending the hours of her classes.  Two years later, the principal got another job, and he and his family left the school.

Child Angel Statue Crying (Retrieved from http://www.watchmanscry.com/article-get-your%20house-in-order.html, January 11, 2014)

Child Angel Statue Crying (Retrieved from http://www.watchmanscry.com/article-get-your%20house-in-order.html, January 11, 2014)

In 1995, a rape was reported to campus police at the University at Buffalo that had occurred in 1992 on the Amherst Campus.  The rape was committed by a male student against a female student.  Both students had been arranged by mutual friends to have a date.  The man took the woman to a local bar, and entered the bar and drank though he was underage, having used an inauthentic driver’s license to enter the establishment.  During the date, the man persistently encouraged the woman to drink, though she drank little.  Following the date and because the student lounge of the woman’s dormitory was a shambles, the woman invited the man in to her dorm room, where he proceeded to deceive her into trusting him, and raped her.  The action was against the woman’s will as the man held her down and caused internal injuries to her while raping her.  The attack was extremely traumatic for the victim who told her friends about it, and they did nothing, in effect becoming accessories to the crime.  In fact, those “friends” never spoke to the survivor again.  No one helped the survivor at her university; she coped the best that she could on her own.

When the rape was reported in 1995 to the campus police at the university, one of the police chiefs laughed about it, demoralizing and dehumanizing the survivor.  The case went to the county district attorney’s office, but was conveniently found to have exceeded the statute of limitations for the category in which the crime was placed.  No support or understanding was offered or provided to the survivor at the university or through the district attorney’s office.  Worse, the district attorney who handled the case told the survivor that she had not been raped, thus blaming and revictimizing the victim.  The offender got away with his crime, was never required to answer for it, and ended up being protected by the DA’s office and the university police by not being brought to justice for it.  Several years following the closure of the case, the perpetrator’s name was deleted from the police report by the campus police, as was the description of the crime that had occurred.  Neither the description of the crime, nor the offender’s name were maintained by campus police in the police report, essentially absolving him of the crime and revictimizing the victim.

These are two examples of crimes in which the perpetrators got away with their offenses.  They were not held accountable, charged, or prosecuted by the very individuals and agencies that are supposed to be protective against crimes, including sex crimes.  While these are just two examples of such situations, there are many more that occur in society every day, and from which perpetrators walk away.

It is important that society be sensitive, understanding, and insightful about victims and survivors of crimes and trauma, including sex crimes.  It seems that most people, because they have not been properly trained in relating with crime victims and trauma survivors, stigmatize and revictimize survivors by blaming, shaming, and punishing them.  Those who should be held accountable and responsible are the perpetrators, themselves, however and often, people make incorrect assumptions and judgments regarding appearances and surface information without knowing all of the details and information that is confidential.

Jesus was also a person who was inaccurately judged by many.  He was a good and merciful person of whom many in power positions were jealous.  Jesus was also different in his goodness, different in that he was so good that he tended not to fit in and was, therefore, ostracized and resented by many.  Jesus was a person who died as a result of jealousy, hated, and evil of those who were unable to tolerate a good and merciful person, a person who was unique and unsurpassable in his goodness and mercy.

Therefore it follows that it is important for people not to inaccurately judge and/or make incorrect assumptions about each other, especially without having all of the details or confidential information.  It is also important that people not stigmatize, blame, punish, and revictimize survivors and victims of crimes, simply out of their own fear, and lack of both insight and understanding.  As people, we should strive to be understanding, helpful, and supportive to each other, as well as forgiving, even in the worst of circumstances, yet also stand up for ourselves and the truth, whether or not we are blamed, stigmatized, punished, or revictimized.

Silence protects and empowers the perpetrators of crimes.  We must seek to speak out about crimes so that criminals are not protected, and so that the greater society is informed and educated about them.

References:

American Psychological Association (2014).  “Understanding child sexual abuse: Education, prevention, and recovery.  What are the effects of child sexual abuse?”  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.   http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/brochures/sex-abuse.aspx?item=4.  Retrieved January 11, 2014.

Babcock-Nice, M. (November 23, 2013).  “Trauma-focused group therapy proposal for adult female rape survivors.” Atlanta, GA: Argosy University, Atlanta.

Baldor, L.C. (January 10, 2014).  “‘Culture of disrespect’ fuels academy sex assaults.”  MSN.com.   http://news.msn.com/us/culture-of-disrespect-fuels-academy-sex-assaults.  Retrieved January 10, 2014.

“Completed Suicide Risk Highest Within First Six Months After Incomplete Suicide” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Child mental health is becoming an area of ever-increasing concern and research, including within the area of child sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and bullying that lead to suicide.  Recently, within the past two months, I had opportunities to visit a large metropolitan hospital in Atlanta at which mental health care is provided on an inpatient and outpatient basis for people of all ages.  I primarily made observations in the children’s mental health unit in which children from ages 4-12 were hospitalized as inpatients.

Since making my observations, I have done much research in the area of medicine and counseling related to depression, anxiety, suicidality, and bullying that ultimately ends in the suicide of the victim.  I have also consulted with many professionals in these areas, including pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed professional counselors.  Further, I have communicated with school teachers, school administrators, school mental health professionals, school system administrators, and religious about these issues.  This blog article will share some of what I discovered related to these critically important issues in mental health care.

At the hospital in Atlanta at which I made my observations regarding inpatient child mental healthcare, the most significant part about it that was very noticeable was that most of the children were boys.  On one particular day, there were 16 children housed in the unit, and 12 of them were boys, with the majority of the boys being African-American.  Of the girls present, the majority of them were Caucasian.  It was also my understanding that the majority of the boys were hospitalized due to suicidality (and/or other mental health concerns related to it, such as depression, anxiety, and/or sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect).

To me as an untrained observer, I found this to be very significant because my personal expectation was to observe there to be a greater number of girls than boys present in the unit.  Because there were significantly fewer girls than boys present in the unit over a period of several days, it became important to me to understand the reasons for it.  I got to thinking about several possibilities to explain this reality.

Perhaps girls are more open about their feelings and experiences, and/or a depressed or otherwise upset mood in girls may be more visible to others.  Perhaps boys are keeping their feelings too much to themselves due to the societal and cultural expectations for them to “be a man,” and thus, not to show their feelings.  Possibly, adults were unable to recognize signs of suicidality or depression in boys compared to girls.

Further, it may be possible that adults did not view boys’ depression or suicidality to be as serious as that of girls until a crisis point was reached.  Culturally, it is also significant that most of the children housed in the unit were African-American boys.  Specifically related to cultural or ethnic differences, I do not yet have particular potential explanations for this.  Additionally, perhaps there are other general explanations and reasons that I have not thought of for there being significantly more boys in the unit than girls.

As I stated previously, since the time of my observations of the children’s mental health unit in the metro Atlanta hospital, I have researched several issues relating to child mental health, and I have consulted with many professionals in the field.  In a study completed by Cynthia R. Pfeffer (2001, p. 1057), she stated that during prospective follow-up into adulthood of children at risk for suicide showed that a “history of sexual abuse (RR: 5.71, 95%; CI: 1.9-16.7) imparted the greatest risk” for it.  Reading this was saddening and disheartening for me because it appears that most suicide attempters and commiters have internalized their pain and suffering, are taking it out on themselves, and appear not to be able to successfully cope.  They were hurt, have lost hope and trust, and are now hurting themselves, possibly in efforts to make the painful memories disappear.  For them, suicide seems to be the only answer for removing and escaping the emotional pain.

In a study by Stanley, Brown, Brent, Wells, Poling, Curry, Kennard, Wagner, Cwik, Klomek, Goldstein, Vitiello, Barnett, Daniel, and Hughes (2009, p. 1005), the researchers reported that individuals who attempted incomplete suicide are at the greatest risk for repeat attempts and/or actually committing suicide within the first six months following the incomplete attempt (as this study particularly relates to adolescents, aged 13-19 years old).  This is extremely important to understand because those who are untrained in this area do not understand the seriousness or severity of it, or are, perhaps, in denial that the situation is serious or severe.  Regarding children, I believe this particularly applies to those in education, including teachers, administrators, and other staff because they are not equipped with the knowledge and understanding about the manner in which to best support students who have been suicidal.

And sometimes, those adults in education who are bullies toward children truly have absolutely no understanding or compassion toward students who made an incomplete attempt at suicide because they simply do not seem to care.  In fact, those type of adults may even do more damage to the child through their insensitivity and failure to understand the situation by being even more punitive or retaliatory toward the student because the issue is one with which they, themselves, are unable to successfully cope.  It remains easier for such adult bullies of students in education to bully, blame, and revictimize the student victim.

Also unhelpful are the student peer bullies with whom the suicide attempt survivor must cope.  Student peer bullies of the victim seem to bully the survivor even more because they are aware of the emotional vulnerability of the survivor, and they capitalize on that because it makes them feel good.  Therefore, in a school environment in which bullying goes unchecked, unresolved, and not corrected, suicide attempt survivors are at an even greater risk for a future successful suicide attempt because they experience bullying from adults and peers.

Additionally, O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock (2012, p. 15) reported in their study that “psychotherapy did not reduce the risk for suicide attempts in adolescents in contrast to adults.”  They (O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock, 2012, p. 11) further reported that “psychotherapy did not reduce suicide attempts in adolescents at 6 to 18 months” into a suicide prevention treatment program.  They (O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock, 2012, p. 11) also stated that “psychotherapy had no beneficial effect on suicide ideation beyond usual care” in adolescents.  These findings are shocking, disturbing, and disheartening, particularly when there may be the extant societal belief that counseling and psychotheraphy benefit individuals with emotional disturbances and/or self-destructive ideations.  If psychotherapy is not beneficial to adolescents who have attempted suicide and/or who have suicidal ideation, what benefit is psychotherapy to children who have had similar experiences and/or beliefs?

A professional friend of mine who is a psychiatrist provided me with an article written by a women who is a sexual abuse survivor, and who was hospitalized on three occasions throughout her life due to depression and suicidality related to her traumatic experiences.  The article, “How ‘Person-Centered’ Care Helped Guide me Toward Recovery from Mental Illness,” by Ashley R. Clayton (2013), was extremely helpful to me in better-understanding what is going through someone’s mind when they are hospitalized for a mental health crisis.  The article was further assistive to me because, as a graduate student in counseling who is working on my second master’s degree, it was important for me to perceive and understand the great value of Person-Centered Therapy in counseling suicide and sexual abuse survivors.

Because so much hope and trust has been lost in survivors of sexual abuse and suicide, it is obviously critically important for others, including mental health professionals, to be as sensitive and supportive as possible of them.  The author shared that she experienced the greatest improvement through the person-centered approach and caring relationship that a particular nurse developed with her.  This is something important for me to remember and put into practice in my own counseling of trauma survivors.

Further regarding children’s mental health in relation to surviving trauma and suicide attempts, as well as those areas in relation to children’s school attendance, I spoke with two pediatricians regarding the issues.  Both pediatricians took the issues seriously, however, they did not desire to take responsibility for children who were suicidal because they stated they were not trained or highly-experienced in those areas.  Both pediatricians also desired for parents to work with the expectations of schools, even though such expectations, stresses, and pressures may be too overwhelming for some children.  Regarding the experience of child sexual abuse, both pediatricians believed that counseling was needed for child survivors, however they both believed that medication to manage the child survivors’ moods were necessary as long as they believed the child was “functioning.”

For me, the perspectives of both pediatricians – both of whom are Caucasian women with many years of experience in pediatrics – were discouraging in many areas.  First, both doctors appeared to be very quick in the desire to refer suicidal patients to other medical professionals.  While that has advantages and disadvantages, it places those at risk in the position of believing that their doctors are unable to properly care for or understand them.  Both also believed that child survivors of sexual abuse need not be medicated if they were “functioning.”  I believe that it is one thing to survive, and quite another thing to thrive.  Merely “functioning” is not fully living or thriving, to me.  And also, both pediatricians appeared to also be too quick to go along with schools’ expectations for students, including maintaining the same academic and/or disciplinary standards for students who are trauma survivors.  As an individual who is an experienced teacher, I know that students have different learning styles; placing everyone in the same category is detrimental to those who have suffered trauma.

Both a psychologist and a licensed professional counselor (LPC) with whom I consulted about difficult, damaging, challenging, and/or overly stressful and overwhelming school experiences of child trauma survivors both believed that people in education are or may be unable and/or unwilling to change in a manner that is more supportive, understanding, and compassionate toward them.  The psychologist believed there is not likely any school that would be able to meet the needs of a child who is a trauma survivor.  And, both the psychologist and the LPC believed that schools are part of the problem in not successfully supporting and understanding trauma survivors and their needs.  Those who are in education – perhaps including school counselors and school psychologists – may be unequipped in schools at being able to fully or successfully support children who are trauma survivors; this can and does have devastating effects on such children.

Of all those in the medical and mental health fields, I believe those who are most fully trained and equipped to successfully both treat and understand trauma survivors – in particular, those who have experienced sexual trauma, depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts – are psychiatrists.  Psychiatrists are in the best position to provide urgent and necessary medical and mental health care to suicide attempters, including hospitalization, evaluations, medical care, and medications.

I assume that the psychiatrists are those who most often see patients who are suicide attempters; and they see them at their lowest points, emotionally.  Therefore, psychiatrists who truly have what is best for their patients in mind seem to help suicide attempters and trauma survivors become stabilized and recover as quickly as possible.  Psychiatrists are in a wonderful position with their patients to be supportive, understanding, and compassionate; and to inform and educate society, in general, about the medical issues and needs experienced by suicide attempters and other trauma survivors.

In communicating with several people who are education professionals regarding survivors of sexual trauma, suicide attempts, and bullying (both by peers and adults in school), I have largely encountered  biases against the survivors, as well as an incredible absence of sensitivity toward them.  Such refusals of understanding, sensitivity, and compassion toward survivors by the majority of education professionals with whom I communicated can possibly be attributed to a lack of or refusal toward being educated and informed about the needs of the survivors.  Such outright insensitivity by the education professionals – the majority of those who were insensitive toward survivors were administrators – could also be attributed to a denial about the seriousness or severity, or fear due to stigmas or the unknown, regarding the issues related to survivors.

In some situations of communicating with administrators, upper administrators, and school psychologists of schools and school systems related to student survivors of sexual trauma, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and bullying, I also encountered not only insensitivity and a lack of understanding toward the survivors, but also inconsistencies in their behaviors toward them.  In most school and/or school system administrative personnel and school psychologists with whom I communicated, I encountered adult bullying by them toward the child survivors that was sadistic.  In such education professionals, it appeared that their incredible harshness toward the survivors was something that they wanted to occur, regardless of the outcome or effects that may or may not have resulted in actual suicide.

In other situations in communicating with education professionals about such survivors, however, I encountered empathy, compassion, understanding, and sensitivity toward them.  Such supportive actions were those exhibited by other particular school system administrative personnel and/or educators and counselors.  Such desparities in the treatment of survivors by various school personnel reflects that education professionals must be on the same page in order to consistently understand and support, as well as be compassionate and sensitive toward survivors.  This appears to be direly and desperately needed in education in order that students who are trauma and suicide attempt survivors receive the greatest possible support and understanding in their educational environments.

Therefore, it was personally extremely shocking and disturbing to me in a life-changing manner that some of the very leaders of schools and school systems not only do not support said survivors, but are actually bullying and sadistic toward them.  In these situations, I believe it would take not less than a miracle to convince such individuals to even consider a different and more positive and understanding perspective toward said survivors.

In regard to particular religious leaders with whom I have communicated about issues related to survivors of child sexual abuse, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and bullying, I have – thus far – experienced their compassion, kindness, and prayers toward survivors.  I have also learned, however, to carefully choose which religious to approach; not all religious are as understanding and supportive as others.  And, I am further aware that there are those religious who would take such information and use it against the victims and/or survivors in order to revictimize them.  Presently, however, that is not what I have experienced in my recent and present communications with particular religious about these issues related to survivors; and I am thankful for and relieved about that.

I believe that society has come a long way in supporting and understanding the experiences and needs of trauma survivors, including those who have experienced sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, trauma, bullying, and suicide attempts, however there is still much more progress to be made.  Those who best-recover from traumatic experiences are those who have positive, stable support in their lives.  Stressful and overwhelming situations are serious set-backs that only cause them to regress, and to continue not to hope or trust.

It is so critically important for sexual abuse survivors and suicide attempt survivors to have the consistent and unconditional support of those around them, including family members, community members, those who are in education, and others.  Without such support, compassion, and understanding – and, in fact, if the survivor experiences the opposite of those – he or she could make a future suicide attempt that is successful.  Such tragedies are avoidable and preventable if everyone practiced more patient, respect, appreciation, and compassion toward each other, particularly trauma survivors who have attempted suicide.

References

Clayton, A.R. (2013).  “How ‘Person-Centered’ care helped guide me toward recovery from mental illness.”  Health Affairs, 32 (3), pp. 622-626.

O’Connor, E., Gaynes, B.N., Burda, B.U., Soh, C., & Whitlock, E.P. (2012).  “Screening for and treatment of suicide risk relevant to primary care.”  Annals of Internal Medicine, pp. 1-22; pp. W-1 – W-5.

Pfeffer, C.R. (2001).  “Diagnosis of childhood and adolescent suicidal behavior: Unmet needs for suicide prevention.”  Society of Biological Psychiatry, 49, pp. 1055-1061.

Stanley, B., Brown, G., Brent, D.A., Wells, K., Poling, K., Curry, J., Kennard, B.D., Wagner, A., Cwik, M.F., Klomek, A.B., Goldstein, T., Vitiello, B., Barnett, S., Daniel, S., & Hughes, J. (2009).  “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for suicide prevention (CBT-SP): Treatment model feasibility, and acceptability.”  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48 (10), pp. 1005-1013.

“Georgia’s SST Process is Supposed to Help, not Hurt Students” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Instructional Materials

Instructional Materials

In Georgia, schools have what is called “Student Support Team” or “SST” to assist students who are struggling with academics, behavior, and/or socialization in the classroom.  In my experience as a public middle school teacher in Georgia for six years, I found that the SST process was extremely helpful and supportive to students, especially when I was the teacher leading and/or otherwise participating in it.  My experienced education mentors in the DeKalb County School System near Atlanta taught me the process and ensured that open-mindedness was maintained in helping and supporting students with every possible intervention for which they qualified, based on their academic, behavioral, and/or social needs.  In public schools, one also had to maintain caution about not suggesting supports and/or interventions that the parent would not consider because the school system (as is true of all public school systems, to my knowledge) did not desire to pay for services that it was unable to offer.  In the private school setting, however, the SST process is extremely different and potentially much less supportive than that in public schools, which I will compare here.

“Georgia SST teams had their origin in a federal lawsuit known as Marshall vs. Georgia (1984). It dealt primarily with disproportionate placement of minority students in Special Education. While the state prevailed in this case, a shortcoming in Georgia education became obvious: there was no standard process for students to obtain individualized help in the regular classroom for learning or behavior difficulties.  Instead, the route to such help usually led to placement in Special Education, often involving removal from the general classroom.  As part of its commitment to federal court to remedy technical violations found in the trial, the State of Georgia mandated that a Student Support Team would be established in every Georgia public school, K-12. The court accepted this commitment, thereby making the SST mandate a permanent injunction” (Block quote from: State of Georgia Department of Education, 2011).

In my experience as a public school teacher in Georgia, I would estimate having led and/or participated in many dozens of SST process team meetings for my students.  Whenever any of my colleagues and/or I identified areas of deficiency and/or potential improvement for students, the students were referred to SST.  SST is a type of support for students that identifies and monitors areas and/or other characteristics of the student in the school setting that could be improved.  For example, a gifted student who has straight As in all subjects except for math – and who is failing math – can be referred to SST for support and monitoring.  Also, a student who has recently maintained average grades, but who has become withdrawn, is failing, and is at-risk (of dropping out of school) can be forwarded through the SST process.  And, a student whose behavior is inappropriate, unacceptable, and/or dangerous, and who is failing due to his or her behavior can also be referred to SST.  Additionally, a student who is pregnant and who is expected to be out of school for awhile due to giving birth can also be referred to SST.

In my experience in teaching public middle school students around Atlanta, Georgia, the SST process was always helpful on each and every occasion.  Public school educators are very interested in assisting and supporting students so that they will be successful, and/or so that they will improve in the areas in which betterment is desired.  I can say that the educators with whom I worked, including myself, were always consistently interested in helping and supporting our students as much as possible.  We went above and beyond in doing what we could, within legal guidelines for public school educators, in suggesting out-of-school supports, as well as in providing and implementing in-school aids to support increased success and learning. 

Some of the actions that were implemented by public school teachers for students through SST to aid them include moving the student’s desk closer in proximity to the teacher to better assist in maintaining the student’s attention; providing extended time to complete assignments and/or assessments; giving individualized verbal and written instructions and/or directions (in addition to addressing them to the entire class); breaking up larger assignments into smaller parts; providing more positive feedback, incentives, and reinforcements; providing increased follow-up, monitoring for progress, and/or redirection to students for whom it is needed and/or helpful; pairing students with those who are good mentors and/or role models; etc.  There are a great many more interventions that can be provided in the classroom, as well, including giving the student leadership opportunities in class; providing the student with more opportunities to speak and/or ask and answer questions; calling on the student by name; maintaining a positive, nonjudgmental tone with the student; not “guilting” a student because he or she is unable to understand and/or complete work; and giving students opportunities to be more mobile in class.  All of these interventions and more are those which my colleagues and I implemented for students with whom we were involved in the SST process.

In contrast, I can also describe a perfect example of how the SST process has broken down and has seriously emotionally and/or academically-injured and/or failed a student, including the generation of risk to their health and life.  I believe that because educators, administrators, and/or counselors and psychologists in private schools are unfamiliar and inexperienced with the SST process in Georgia because they have not been required to utilize it and/or there has been little to no oversight or enforcement of it in their school systems, that it is not nearly as effective as the process implemented in public schools.  Or, perhaps school employees in private schools may deliberately mishandle the process, purposely jeopardizing students’ health, life, and/or academic success.  Public school teachers in Georgia utilitze the SST process to assist students all the time; private school teachers and other school personnel appear to perceive the SST process as a last resort and something to avoid at all possible costs.  Even for those students who may need, require, and/or benefit from the SST process in private schools, there is a great lack of it’s utilization in the private school environment, as I have observed.

In relation to the particular student whom I will call Carl, he is an elementary school (grade 3) aged child who has regularly achieved high grades and is an honor student, academically, behaviorally, as well as in character and values.  Carl’s standardized test scores are extremely high, with his average academic functioning ranging between grade 5 to 7, and his overall academic functioning ranging between grade 3 to grade 10.  Carl’s socialization might benefit from more positive interactions and opportunities for positive, small group cooperative work with his peers, however he has had prior experiences that have understandably-caused him to be cautious of his peers and others.  Carl could also benefit from increased follow-up, attention, reassurance, and positive reinforcement from his teachers, as well as greater open-mindedness toward utilizing and implementing supports that will better aid in Carl’s academic success, reduction in stress, and increased happiness and confidence at school.

For Carl, it would have benefited him for his teachers and/or school to have instituted the SST process immediately upon their observation of him requiring additional time to complete his assignments and/or assessments.  They provided accommodations to Carl for a period of six months prior to nearly all of them being removed by the school psychologist, against the many suggestions and evidence provided by an outside professional who completed an outside evaluation of Carl.  It’s not that Carl is unable to perform extremely well on all of his work, it’s that he simply needs some additional time to complete it.  Therefore, what happened was that extended time was provided for some time, and following an outside assessment, nearly all extended time was removed, even though the professional who completed the outside assessment repeatedly recommended continuing the extended time accommodations, and identified – through a valid evaluation – that Carl’s processing time was lower than average.  Basically, the evaluation that was completed addressed only reading and math, and not language arts or writing.  Simply based on the reading and math results of the evaluation, the school psychologist of the private faith-based school removed nearly all of Carl’s extended time accommodations, without having any concrete evidence to do so in his other subjects. 

School Books and Assignments

School Books and Assignments

In my experience, removing accommodations already in place without evidence to support the need for their removal is simply not done and is unethical.  To remove nearly all of six months worth of accommodations placed Carl at significant peril in many areas of his life and development.  In all of my experience, accommodations are only removed when the student shows progress in being able to be successful without them in place.  Accommodations are never removed if they will hurt the student in some – or any – way.  In Carl’s situation, nearly all of his extended time accommodations were removed, and it was literally like the rug being pulled out from under him.  Again, the professional who completed Carl’s evaluation repeatedly stated that the extended time accommodations was needed and warranted.  The school psychologist who interpreted the professional’s evaluation removed nearly all of the accommodations that were in place to help support Carl in maintaining success. 

The school psychologist would rather remove accommodations already proven to help and support Carl, and require additional evaluations, rather than keep supports in place that have aided in his success.  The school principal also likely prepped the school psychologist for the outcome that was desired, and that is what occurred.  Further, school leaders always speak of wanting a partnership between home and school, however when situations such as this occur – when accommodations are removed that have been proven to assist the student in his success – it reflects that there is no partnership, and instead, there exists an adversarial relationship.

Following the removal of nearly all of Carl’s accommodations by the school psychologist, he began failing many assignments and/or attaining low grades on them – not because he was not capable of doing them well, but because he was unable to complete them.  This, therefore, placed extreme and unnecessary stress on Carl, and led to a crisis situation.  It, therefore, appears that the school psychologist and even perhaps other school leaders are more interested in removing supports to assist students, rigidly adhering to curriculum requirements that students may be unable to attain without extra supports, and essentially and literally placing a nail in a student’s coffin by removing supports that have assisted them. 

Rather than understand and support an outstanding student such as Carl as much as possible, why would a school psychologist remove supports for him that have been proven to assist him in his success?  Why would a school psychologist prefer to create a crisis situation for such a wonderful and outstanding student, when there is no evidence to support the removal of accommodations already in place?  Does the school psychologist prefer that Carl fail?  Does the school psychologist intend for Carl to experience a crisis or worse?  It appears so.

In this situation, the SST process at this private, faith-based school has failed Carl, and caused risk to his health and life.  Worse than negatively affecting his grades, assignment completion, confidence, and mood, it caused a crisis situation that could have led to Carl not being here today.  Is curriculum of greater importance than a child’s life?  Is educational rigidity and a lack of understanding of students more important than supporting and helping them as much as possible to be successful and happy in school?  Are private schools not to be held accountable for assisting students with success through positive (rather than negative) endeavors of the SST process?  In this particular situation, this certainly appears to be the case. 

When a related issue of parentally-requested school support of Carl be completed for him – and it was not – the issue went before the school system’s superintendent, who cited her support for curriculum, policy, and the privatization of the school system, preferring those areas to the support and well-being of Carl.  When school leaders succumb to intellectual blindness related to denying support, success, well-being, and lives of their students, such school leaders cease to be effective.  School leaders who are also unable to cope with constructive criticism and honesty, and who are either unwilling or unable to provide simple support, understanding, and compassion to students – particularly children – have the potential for being more destructive than constructive. 

In order to be productive and progressive, schools and school leaders must be open-minded to all perspectives and philosophies – even the ones they don’t like to hear – in order to improve and in order to best-serve and benefit the students.  School leaders, particularly those in upper administration, must also use their intelligence and insight in order to model, understand, and believe what is true and correct – as well as remain ethical – rather than allowing themselves to be poisoned by inaccurate or false information provided to them by those whom they manage. 

There are some school leaders who are open-minded and effective because they listen to and consider the issues of their customers, however there often seem to be many more who do not listen to, nor consider serious issues because they do not approach the issues with open-mindedness and without prejudgment and bias.  Leaders of the former-type are most effective because they always have the best interests of the students in mind.  Regarding the latter-type leaders, their purposeful ignorance and/or “fix” to the issues may only contribute to further problems and a worsening of the issues.

Students in all schools in Georgia – not just those attending public schools – must be afforded the positive support that they need through SST and the SST process.  Removing supports that were put in place to assist the student, and doing so with no evidence that the student is able to perform as well without the supports, unnecessarily injures the student, placing the student at risk for further injury.  Hopefully, people who have been entrusted to support and help students will do so, rather than playing with their intellect, emotions, and lives as if they are unimportant and unvalued.  Hopefully, such people will do so before it is too late.  But, then again, some people never change.

References:

State of Georgia Department of Education, 2011.  “Student Support Teams (SST): Structure and Process” (p. 4).  Retrieved on March 3, 2013 from   http://archives.gadoe.org/DMGetDocument.aspx/SST%20Guidelines%20Final%209-16-11.pdfp=6CC6799F8C1371F62BDB7AD6F76A3052D9E5ABE36C978EDD135479A5CF0628D1&Type=D

“What do People Want to Hear?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Throughout my life and through my life experiences, I have generally found that people only want to hear “good” things.  That is, it seems that people only want to hear what is good, pleasant, positive, or uplifting to them in some way.  Those who have had much life experience, whether they are younger or older, can share that not all life experiences are good, though it is still important to be able to share about them with others. 

People generally seem to love the “feel good” communications, messages, and information that they receive and/or share.  I admit and agree that I enjoy such information just as much as any other.  However, in order for people to remain “real,” we must understand that in order to continue growing, developing, and improving ourselves, we must also recognize, realize, and deal with experiences, issues, or concerns that are hurtful, painful, and potentially negative.

Because there may be a tendency for people to avoid or shut out information that they do not want to hear, there may also be a tendency to “blame” or “revictimize” the individual who has experienced a painful situation.  It sometimes seems that the person who has been hurtful to another has not at all been hurt by the situation that he or she caused, but actually feels good about it and such situation may have served to boost their own ego.  Psychological research has reflected this in the case of bullies who interact negatively with their targets.  The bullies feel good and get an ego boost, while the targets feel badly and are hurt by it.  Similar research has reflected this phenomena in sexual predators.

So, what do people want to hear?  I think the answer is that people generally want to hear about good and wonderful things, and may not have the training necessary to be equipped to cope with things they don’t want to hear.  As a result of some of my own life experiences and those of others that have been painful, in sharing about them, I have found that there are a very few who are successfully able to hear, listen to, and cope with the knowledge of and information about them.   

This, therefore, creates a very small number of people with whom one can relate about deep and serious issues.  Sometimes, then, it is necessary to seek professionals with whom to communicate with such issues when others do not understand them or may make them worse.  When people do not present an understanding about the issues, they may also unnecessarily misjudge the person who is simply the messenger, the one who is simply providing the information.  Then, they may inaccurately associate the messenger with the issue that was presented and about which they do not want to hear.

Red Flower in Garden, August 2012

There is alot of information out there.  Some of it is good, and some, not so good.  Within it all, however, I believe there is some good that can be made out of it or that can come from it.  Yes, people generally feel good about positive, pleasant, and happy situations.  However, we can also come together in genuinely caring community and loving fellowship when we recognize and deal effectively, positively, and successfully with issues that have a negative or painful impact.  Since we are all different and unique, but also similar, each individual may have his or her own views on what constitutes successfully and positively coping with something.

When we mobilize to help survivors of natural disasters, that is a reflection of something good coming from a painful situation.  When we listen to others and guide them in ways of helping themselves rather than denying them or shutting them out, those are ways of bringing something positive to a situation or experience.  When we use our gifts and talents to help others who are in need, who are impoverished, who are in pain, and who are suffering in some way, we are showing the genuine care and love to others that God intended us to use.  These are the good things that people want to hear that can come from situations and/or experiences that have potentially been hurtful or painful.

When people blame, punish, misjudge, or revictimize others because of hearing what they don’t want to hear, they are not using their natural gifts and talents to help, assist, and support others in finding a better way to help themselves.  It is in these situations when people potentially try to “fix” a situation without adequate care or understanding that the situation may potentially be made worse. 

Sometimes, when people hear what they don’t want to hear, and react negatively to it, an opportunity for growth, development, and knowledge for something more positive may be lost.  This also reflects that people hear what they want to hear, even though they may not understand the true message.  It also reflects that people may react negatively to a situation simply because it is something that they don’t want to hear.

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Life is full of things that we want to hear and that we don’t want to hear.  How we cope with and communicate with others about such information can make all the difference in either helping or hurting another.  We must first take a close look at ourselves and analyze how we process and cope with information – that which we may view as positive, negative, or neutral.  And, we must realize that life and all of what we experience in it are learning experiences.  We can make it good or bad. 

We can take painful experiences, and work to make similar, future situations better for others.  We can take happy experiences and work to share the joy in them with others.  We can decide only to be open to and “hear” the good about situations and experiences.  We can filter out what we don’t want to hear.  Or, we can “hear” what we don’t want to hear and work to make future, similar experiences better for ourselves and others.  What do you want to hear?

“Women need more Appreciation and Respect” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Is it just me, or does this happen to women alot?  Women who are assertive, confident, direct, honest, independent, educated, and who may be single, divorced, and/or widowed are unappreciated and not respected by many men.  Not only are such women unappreciated and not respected by men, but also by other women and the greater society, and others may feel very threatened by their confidence and assertiveness – and blame the women for it due to their own discomfort!  What is it about us?  What is it that people dislike?

I’m not a person who asks for or tends to “need” alot from others.  I try to “handle” and cope with the majority of situations and experiences that I have independently.  I’m not a gossip, though when something is going wrong and could be improved or enhanced, I speak up, making myself and my views known.  What I find is that, for the most part, most people just don’t care.  In fact, I often find that the more I speak up, the worse the situation gets.

Why is that?  Do most people believe that they have enough of their own life situations to deal with?  Do they feel that there is no need to invest anything, emotionally, into someone else’s difficulties, challenges, struggles, or troubles?  Are people afraid to get involved?  Or, is it that they really, simply just don’t care?

It would be interesting to me if a study was performed to research all of these attributes and characteristics of women, and the manner in which men, other women, and even the greater society views and/or treats us.  It would also be interesting to me to ascertain whether or not there are differences in such perspectives and treatment of women across different regions of the country – such as in the north, south, east, and west – in the United States. 

The South is known as the Stroke Belt.  Of course, there are studies that have been completed about why this is so.  I would like to offer my own simple analysis, not based on any research, but based on my own observations and experiences. 

It seems to me that women in the South are often not allowed to be themselves.  In order to be fully accepted into Southern society, women are subtly and silently “required” to speak and behave more like men, be supportive cheerleaders of men, be agreeable and not ask any questions of men, and be submissive to and/or dependent on men.  Additionally, women in the South are required to do all of these things while also remaining “beautiful,” appearing young, and being a great physical, mental, and emotional condition.  Any women who does not seem to “meet” those requirements is not part of the “in” and/or “accepted” crowd.

Perhaps unknowingly, women in other parts of the country do the same, to a certain extent.  Women unconsciously “conform” ourselves to fit in and be more socially acceptable.  How many women do you know believe they have to drink with their boyfriend and/or his buddies at sports games in order to fit in and be acceptable?  How many women do you know pile on the make-up, and spend loads of money for hair and nail treatments, thinking that this makes them more attractive?  How many women do you see at your workplace who are especially kind and friendly to the boss, seeking more favor?

It is not easy to be a woman in today’s society.  Women are “required” to do, say, and “be” so many things, to serve in so many roles.  And, in all this, women are also expected not to become upset, not to complain, not to vent, not to become emotional.  We are expected to be able to handle it all!  Certainly, some of us can be considered superwomen, but after awhile, the stresses, pressures, expectations, and requirements take their toll.  Stroke, cancer, heart disease, and other conditions and/or ailments are a result of the constant, unceasing expectations and requirements that society places upon us. 

Therefore, women need more appreciation and respect in our society – in our families, our homes, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world.  People ought to try to place themselves in another’s shoes and walk in those shoes for awhile.  Rather than overlooking, not appreciating, and not respecting each other’s experiences and who we are as individuals, people must realize that life isn’t always easy for everyone.  Their lack of appreciation, and absence of understanding and respect just makes it that much more difficult for us.  But again, do they really care? 

As a member of a particular group at my church, I was recently overlooked by the male leader of the group.  The leader is about my age, married, and has a family, though he always appeared to take a sort of “flippant” and uncaring attitude toward me.  Today, he realized that he had not included me on any of the group’s e-mails and communications for several months, and that by doing so, I was not informed of a group meeting and photo.  He apologized to me about the situation – by e-mail – though it all just brought tears to my eyes. 

Why am I the person who is regularly overlooked, unappreciated, uncared for, not respected?  Are all of my positive qualities that much of a threat to others that they consciously or unconsciously exclude me from their own thinking?  It is so disppointing and tragic to keep experiencing these types of situations over and over again.  I could change who I am, but then I wouldn’t be “me.”  Maybe most people would like me better if I was more gossipy, untruthful, and fake.  I wouldn’t be true to myself if I behaved like that.  I wonder how many people would truly be able to walk in my shoes?

Comments on Child Sexual Abuse; and Book Review of “Fred the Fox Shouts ‘NO!'” By Tatiana Matthews (Commentary and Review By Michele Babcock-Nice)

“Fred the Fox Shouts ‘NO!'” By Tatiana Y. Kisil Matthews

Child sexual abuse is sadly and tragically much too prevalent and common in our society.  Infants, toddlers, children, youth, and teens – minors of all ages and backgrounds – may experience sexual abuse and/or sexual assault before they turn 18. 

In statistics provided by the website titled, “Parents for Megan’s Law and The Crime Victim’s Center,” we know that one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused or assaulted while they are minors; the average age of those children experiencing sexual abuse or assault is between 9 to 10 years old; and less than 10% of sexual abuse or assault involving children is reported to police.

Additionally, statistics from the website state that child sexual abuse or assault usually occurs in a long-term interation between the offender and the child, with four years being the average length of time of the interaction.  Also, only about 1% of child sexual abuse and assault cases are considered to be false reports.  So, that means that 99% of the reports are true and genuine!

Readers must also be aware that much of this information is based on reported child sexual abuse and assault cases.  Therefore, child sexual abuse and assault is likely much more common and occurs more often than the statistics show since so many cases go unreported. 

In a conversation that I had with a metro Atlanta county special victims unit police investigator many years ago about child sexual abuse, he stated to me that offenders can be anyone – yes, anyone!  He shared with me that the professions of some of those whom he arrested included police officers, clergy, scout leaders, teachers, marines, and others. 

In a conversation that I had with a pediatrician, also many years ago in the same metro Atlanta county in Georgia, she shared with me that child sexual abuse and assault in day care centers and preschools is common!  If it is so common, why is there not more being done to educate the public about it and to eliminate it from occurring?

From my own research on the issue, it appears that the younger the victim or survivor is, the more vulnerable they are, and the more difficult it is to gain evidence against and prosecute the offender.

Knowing this information, understanding the statistics, realizing that offenders can be anyone, and that child sexual abuse and assault are common in day cares and preschools, as well as perpetrated by those who are known to the child, we, as a society, must do more. 

We must do more to educate and protect our children, and be sure that our children are safe where ever they are and in whatever they’re doing.  We must also do whatever we can to eliminate the stigma that often surrounds victims and survivors of sex crimes, and instead, place responsibility and seek justice for these crimes rightly on the offenders.

One way of educating toddlers and children about the privacy of their bodies, their right and need to say, “No” to others who exploit or who attempt to exploit them, and the necessity of reporting the situation to trusted adult(s) is by teaching them about acceptable and unacceptable touch (by anyone) and how to react should they experience unacceptable touch.

Tatiana Matthews’ book, Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is one such excellent example of a book by which parents of children – or other trusted adults – can teach children through the books’ character, Fred the Fox, about their bodily privacy, their private parts, what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable touch, as well as instruct them – and have them practice – yelling, “NO!” to the offender.  Children must also be taught to get away from the offender if possible, and to inform a trusted adult about the situation. 

Mrs. Matthews also presents through her book with Fred’s character that children must be taught not to keep the secrets of the offender.  It is good for children to learn not to keep secrets, especially since doing so may be designed by the offender to protect the perpetrator and harm the child. 

Mrs. Matthew’s further shares in her book through Fred that simply because someone may be older or bigger than a child, does not mean they have the right to say or do whatever they want to the child.  Those who are most vulnerable must be the most protected and kept the most safe.

As a licensed professional counselor who works with adolescents and adults, Mrs. Matthews has 15 years of experience in providing therapy to victims and survivors of sexual abuse and assault.  Mrs. Matthews’ book, Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”, is written in easy-to-understand language that is helpful to youngsters about this issue.  Her book is also beautifully and creatively-illustrated with drawings provided by Mrs. Allison Fears, showing Fred the Fox and his family discussing what Fred should do and how he should protect himself from unacceptable touch.

Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is a must-read, and an important and useful tool by which to teach children about their right to bodily privacy, what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable touch, and ways in which children can respond and react to those who exploit or attempt to exploit them.  This is a book that should definitely be read in every day care center, every preschool, and every elementary school. 

All children and youth should be educated about how to protect themselves from child sexual assault and abuse.  And, every one of us should be interested in keeping our children and youth safe from sexual predators.  Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is an excellent tool by which to achieve this endeavor.

References

Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”.  June 5, 2012.  www.fredthefox.com.

Matthews, T.Y.K. (2010).  Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”.  Tatiana Y. Kisil Matthews: Charleston, South Carolina.

Parents for Megan’s Law and The Crime Victim’s Center.  June 5, 2012.  http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org/public/statistics_childSexualAbuse.html.

“Money Talks: The Decisions of Wealthy School Benefactors may not be in Everyone’s Best Interests” By Michele Babcock-Nice

Money Talks: The Decisions of Wealthy School Benefactors may not be in Everyone’s Best Interests

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

April 10, 2012

There has always been the age-old issue of money being the decision-maker when it comes to wealth, power, influence, and issues. More than one person and friend has advised me that one person cannot change the system, that one person cannot change others’ corrupt and/or unethical practices.

As a person who visualizes a situation and wants to improve it or make it better in some way, I have realized as I have gotten older that – unless I am also extremely wealthy and had money that could talk – my voice is often just a lone whisper in the wilderness. However, I do have a voice, and I enjoy expressing myself in the desire to be heard.

So, while I may not be able to open others’ eyes to unethical, immoral, and/or incorrect practices, I can remain a role model and leader for positive change, for speaking out about the truth that others don’t see – or refuse to see, and for my gift of natural insight into myself and others. It is important for us, as such role models, to express our views and perspectives so that others may be offered alternate snapshots of the world around us.

Also I have gotten older, I have also realized that in sometimes being unable to influence and/or convince others of a better, or more moral, ethical, or correct way, one may be forced to walk away from a situation. I may be wrong, but I believe that sometimes, there is no helping a situation. There may be too many people who share the same beliefs, and those beliefs may be the majority view, whether or not the majority upholds moral, just, fair, and ethical standards.

In education, particularly in schools in which wealthy benefactors have enormous power and influence, those benefactors may or may not have the best interests of the school and/or students in mind. In fact, if such benefactors are leaders of a large and powerful family and/or extended family – such as those comprising of 100s or even 1,000s of members – it is those benefactors whose influence and power will be most felt, whether good or not.

This is why it is of advantage to students, parents, educators, community members, and others to consider every side of a viewpoint or situation. Just because money talks does not necessarily mean that it is a good thing. It may only be a good thing for those wealthy benefactors of a school of which their children and/or relatives attend. They may view things on a completely different level than the common, average, ordinary person since their wealth, status, power, and influence may be so far-reaching. This, then, is not necessarily good for the common person because his or her needs and issues may not be adequately recognized, addressed, or attended to.

In particular, in deciding on a school at which to send your children, and/or choosing a school at which to work in any capacity, one must do as much research as possible and consider all sides of any issue. Of course, there are going to be good and bad things to consider about anyplace, though one must pay particular attention to those issues that have caused conflict and/or that are controversial, as well as the manner in which they were handled. If serious or controversial issues are silenced, and/or if honest, competent employees are falsely disgraced or bullied, our eyes must be opened to the truth that others try to prevent us from seeing and understanding.

As someone who tries to think positively about everything and see the best in others, it is sometimes a rude and painful awakening to realize that not everyone has the best interests of others in mind. Particularly in the situation of those who are extremely wealthy and whose money talks, people must be aware that such individuals may have their own agenda and may be acting in their own self-interests, which may not be the best for everyone. Whether in the area of education or any other profession, it is important to be knowledgeable and aware of these situations.

Author’s Note: Also posted on Twitter and LinkedIn under “People Against Retaliation and Bullying,” April 10, 2012.

Book Review of “Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction” by Dr. Mic Hunter (Review by Michele Babcock-Nice)

Book Review of

Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction

by Mic Hunter

(Review by Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

Dr. Mic Hunter has a wealth of knowledge and experience in psychologically-treating individuals who have experienced sexual trauma, sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, and addictions.  He believes in the positive influence and effects of people practicing The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as adapting them to psychologically-based issues in addition to alcoholism. 

In his book, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction, Dr. Hunter has again applied The Twelve Steps, as well as many valuable, beneficial, and thoughtful workbook-style questions in the treatment and recognition of family sexual dysfunction and individual sexual dysfunction as a result of the former.  Dr. Hunter identifies and describes family sexual dysfunction, including many different styles and characteristics of it that are helpful for readers to know, understand, and reflect upon. 

Dr. Hunter goes further by identifying and describing adult child issues related to family sexual dysfunction, unhealthy and healthy aspects of adult sexuality, and applying The Twelve Steps to family sexual dysfunction – as an individual – as a method of recovery.  He not only identifies The Twelve Steps for use in conjunction with recovery from family sexual dysfunction, but also describes how they apply to recovery and provides personalized workbook questions for individuals to answer in an effort to identify, recognize, contemplate, and recover from past sexually dysfunctional experiences.

Dysfunction prevents the fulfillment of needs in a reasonable manner, and may include extremes of behavior.  This also applies to families.  In a sexually dysfunction family, there are attitudes, behaviors, or other interactions and communications that have a negative affect on the family members’ sexuality (p. 1).  Rather than enjoying sexuality, “they end up being hurt by” it (p. 1). 

Dr. Hunter identifies and describes “three basic extremes [that] are common in sexually dysfunction families: the overvaluation of sex, negative attitudes about sex, and sexual shutdown” (p. 2).  In families that overvalue sex, “sex is the most important thing in life” (p. 2).  People in such families have “sexuality as the predominant focus of most interactions,”  and “they sexualize their emotions” (p. 2). 

In sex-negative families, “sex is something to be feared, because it is seen to be dangerous, perhaps even evil” (p. 4).  Dr. Hunter shares that such families may “enforce rigid rules about sexual behavior,” and when a person violates those rules, he or she feels unworthy and ashamed (p. 4).  In the sexually shut-down family, “there is a nearly phobic response” to sex (p. 5).  People in such families are hard at work in repressing their sexuality, ignoring children’s sexual development, and pretending not to notice sexual develop changes (p. 5).  There are also families that combine the dysfunctional styles.

Members of the adult self-help group, Adult Children of Sexual Dysfunction (ACSD), identified ten main characteristics related to family sexual dysfunction when they were young, such characteristics affecting their behavior.  Some of these characteristics include experiencing confusion or shame about sexuality, a lack of healthy or nourishing touch, and the experience of difficulty in establishing relationships that are intimate (p. 8). 

Dr. Hunter goes on to identify, describe, and discuss each of the ten characteristics pinpointed by ACSD and provide his helpful, reflective workbook questions that personally assist individual readers in remembering and recognizing past sexual attitudes and/or experiences within their families.  A few of Dr. Hunter’s questions in relation to these described characteristics include: “When you think about the other gender, how do you feel?” (p. 24); “How do you react now to being touched by others?” (p. 37); and “What relationship patterns have you noticed in your life” (p. 47). 

Importantly in regard to the tenth characteristic of confusing sex with emotions, Dr. Hunter identifies and describes different types of intimacy, including physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  One of the results of the tenth characteristic may be that people “sometimes leave groups or end friendships when they start to grow close” (p. 71).  Also, those who sexually abuse children may misunderstand sexuality and sexual boundaries by stating that they are being intimate with the children (p. 71). 

Dr. Hunter states that “perhaps the most destructive consequence of living as a child in a sexually dysfunctional family is the development of a shame-based identity” (p. 73).  Even when the child grows into adulthood, he or she continues to be ashamed.  Such identities stem from relationships that are abusive or neglectful (p. 73).  In order to heal from the affects of such experiences, Dr. Hunter states that “safe, nurturing person-to-person interaction” is required (p. 73).

Following this, Dr. Hunter introduces The Twelve Steps as a guide for recovery from family sexual dysfunction.  He identifies and describes each of the Steps, as well as associating his helpful workbook-style questions with them.  For examples, in the area of powerlessness, Dr. Hunter asks the reader if he or she could obtain nourishing touch as a child (p. 81).  In relation to admitting our defects, Dr. Hunter asks the reader to write a list of his or her character defects and to give examples (p 109).  Regarding the experience of a spiritual awakening, Dr. Hunter asks what the reader understands about his or her past, and it’s effect on one’s present lifestyle and experiences (p. 129).

I recommend Dr. Hunter’s book, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction, to those readers who are interested in discovering and healing from their past that may include sexual dysfunction, individual sexual dysfunction, and/or family sexual dysfunction.  I also recommend Dr. Hunter’s book for reading by anyone who desires to increase their knowledge about the impact, influence, and effects of general attitudes and behaviors about sex. 

For the person who is seeking to recover and heal from past sexually dysfunctional experiences, Dr. Hunter’s book is a treasure trove of understanding, knowledge, examples, questions, insights, and suggestions for recovery regarding it.  For the reader who may simply be interested in increasing his or her knowledge related to sexuality, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction is a valuable work on understanding different attitudes, interactions, communications, and behaviors regarding it. 

Therefore, again, Dr. Hunter has tackled an issue that likely causes discomfort and pain for many, though he also provides the power of healing psychological understanding, insight, and recovery to it.  This is another of Dr. Hunter’s valuable books on issues related to sex and sexuality, and how readers can increase their enjoyment of sex by working through past experiences that may have been negative or dysfunctional.

Please Note: New copies of this book are available for $5.00 each by directly contacting the author at: Dr. Mic Hunter, 357 Kellogg Boulevard East, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101.

Reviewer’s Note: Quoted material is included in this review with permission by Dr. Mic Hunter.

Source

Hunter, M. (1992).  Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction.  Minneapolis, Minnesota: CompCare Publishers.

“A Spiritual Inquiry: How and Why Should we Forgive?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“A Spiritual Inquiry:

How and Why Should we Forgive?”

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

March 20, 2012

Michele Babcock-Nice

Michele Babcock-Nice

Forgiveness.  What is forgiveness?  And, how and why should we forgive?  Who should we forgive?  Forgiveness – the act of forgiving – is a spirituality issue that I have contemplated and grappled with in my own life.  It is something that I have experienced, myself, through others, and by observing others.  Why is it important for us to forgive ourselves and each other?  These are topics of personal relevance, as well as relevance for the greater population.

Forgiveness is not only something that must be taught, it must be learned.  People must model forgiveness with each other and encourage it among one another in order for it to have full and far-reaching positive effects.  Jesus taught and commanded that people forgive each other, so that both we and our sins will be forgiven by God. 

Colossians 3:13 states, “Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Mark 11:26 states, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Matthew 6: 14-15 also shares, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” The Holy Bible, 1979).  The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct us that we are to forgive each other. 

One of my favorite Bible passages that is very humbling to me is Matthew 18: 21-22, which states, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (The Holy Bible, 1979).   

This passage reminds us that we are not perfect, that none of us are perfect, and that, to me, is very humbling.  When I think of the mistakes that I make and sins that I commit, whether unintentionally or not, it never fails to humble me when I hear and contemplate these verses.  Jesus wants us to forgive each other seventy times seven times, that’s nearly 500 times!  One must understand the general idea, however, is not to just forgive each other once, twice, or even a few times, but repeatedly, without end.  That also reminds me of how fallible and human we truly are, and that we are actually in need of forgiveness, by each other and of ourselves.

Luke 6: 36-37 further teaches us to be kind, merciful, and forgiving, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Luke 6 actually teaches us many things about each other in addition to this, such as being good to the poor and giving to one another. 

Luke 6 provides us with an opportunity to reflect on who we are as people – to reflect on our characters and true natures.  Are we people who truly have goodness in our hearts?  Are our thoughts, words, and actions motivated by and intended to help and support each other and ourselves?  Do we honestly hope to be caring, compassionate, understanding, merciful, and forgiving toward each other? 

The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct and direct us to forgive each other.  Not only are we to forgive each other a few or several times, but countless times, for we are fallible, we are human, we are children of God who are progressing through our learning stages of life.  When we ask others to forgive us, we are humbling ourselves to their mercy. 

When we ask God to forgive us, He is forgiving and provides us with free will, but also with the understanding that we should not do the same wrong over again; we must correct ourselves.  If one is Catholic and goes to reconciliation, he or she shares those transgressions that he or she has committed with a priest, who, through God’s power and mercy, forgives us.  Again, however, we are called not to commit the same wrongs or sins in the future.

Just the other day, my young son was upset with me.  He brought a library book home from school that I did not approve of.  It was a comic-style book that was geared toward older children, though I am aware that the particular theme of the book was not something that I agreed with, nor was it entirely emotionally or mentally healthy for him.  I allowed him to read it one day, with the express understanding that he could read it during that one day, but not following that day.  I was aware that he was tired, and had not slept well the previous night, though he was very attracted to reading this book.  It was my intention to return the book to the school library on the next school day, which I did. 

So, my son became upset with me when he tried to look at and read this comic-style book on a day when I had not allowed it.  I spoke with him about it, again explaining my reasons behind it.  He is aware of my views on such books, though, as a youngster who is, at times, testing his limits, he can be persistent about his wants and desires.  So, when I refused to allow him to read the book on the next day, he was mad and upset about it.  Understandably, he wants to fit in and be like the other boys, but he knows that he is my child and that the other boys are not – their parents can have them do as they wish. 

In my son being angry and upset with me, I recognized his desire to get something that he wanted.  I reminded him that he did read the comic book on the one day, but could not do so the next day.  I then asked him to forgive me.  And…he did.  I told him that I love him and that I want the best for him, and then, I gave him some time to himself.  Soon thereafter, he came around, and found something else to stimulate his interest.

I believe that this is a manner in which God and Jesus want us to behave.  It is important to have strong morals, ethics, beliefs, values, and principles.  This is something that I am trying to instill into my son.  By sticking to my views, beliefs, and principles – and by asking my son for his understanding and forgiveness – he more readily showed his appreciation and respect for me and my values. 

This example may be something minor in most of our lives, though it is something that is important to be taught, learned, and modeled.  In this way, I am teaching forgiveness to my son, even in regard to my expectation about his acceptance of my values and principles for his upbringing.  These are also good reasons for asking for and receiving forgiveness.

An area of forgiveness that is not often addressed or recognized is of forgiving oneself.  This is extremely important – we must forgive ourselves.  Who, among us, teaches how valuable it is to forgive ourselves?  I am aware of a recent Lenten Retreat at my church in which the religious speaker, a priest, spoke of forgiving ourselves as the theme for the event.  And, how and why must we forgive ourselves?  This is a significant question to which there can be many answers.

When was the last time you ever thought about forgiving yourself?  Why, you ask, should you forgive yourself?  This is an issue of much contemplation, prayer, and reflection for me because I know that I am not perfect – I am human, I am fallible.  Yet, I can also be very hard and tough on myself, not giving myself credit where it is due, blaming myself, depriving myself, sacrificing things from myself, being down on myself.  I always try to have a positive attitude and outlook on everything, but I also recognize that I have very high standards and expectations of not only others, but also of myself.

Therefore, I must forgive myself.  I must forgive myself for being human, for being fallible, for making mistakes, for being too hard on myself, for not being good enough or kind enough to myself.  In forgiving myself, I am more readily able to forgive others.  I am also more easily able to view others as human, as fallible, just like I am.  For me, it is also a much healthier perspective.  If I forgive myself, I feel better and happier, not only about myself, but everything. 

When I forgive myself, my outlook is improved, things are not as worrisome or stressful as they were, and I take it easier on myself, allowing myself to enjoy life, my family, and others more.  I don’t need to make things so hard for myself, nor to be as hard on myself.  So, I must and do forgive myself for all of these things.  I am better able to be forgiving, loving, nurturing, kind, and compassionate to others in doing so.

Lastly, and something also not often commented on or recognized is that in forgiving each other and ourselves, that does not continue to open the door to being vulnerable to being hurt by others or ourselves.  We must express our views, standards, and expectations to others, and insist that those are met, so that we are not vulnerable to being wronged by them again. 

If we are wronged by those whom we forgive, then we are called to forgive them, though I believe we must continue to insist upon the manner in which we desire to be treated by them.  If they do not improve in their words or actions, then we must forgive them, but we must also help ourselves, perhaps by seeking to further understand them and/or distancing ourselves from them. 

And, we must open our eyes and recognize ways in which we are not helpful to and loving of ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves for those actions, but also work on improving our actions toward ourselves.  We must create a mindset that is loving, helpful, and healthy to and for ourselves.  Therefore, forgiving ourselves, and working to improve the manner in which we view and treat ourselves are also important aspects of forgiveness that are valuable and significant.

One issue with which I have been working on forgiving myself is my divorce and the choice that I made in a spouse.  I, ultimately, desired to reconcile and remain in my marriage, though it was extremely difficult and challenging; it was my former spouse who ended our marriage.  I remained faithful to my spouse and dedicated to my family in the midst of challenges which were unbearable at the time. 

It was during those times – as well as times past and present – that I leaned on God, Jesus, and my faith for survival – for the survival of my soul and spirit.  It is in my faith that I continually take comfort, though I also recognize that I work, daily, to forgive myself for my decisions that have harmed myself and my family.  I recognize that one cannot force a person to believe and behave in the manner in which the other desires, though I also believe, however, in the importance and healthfulness of forgiving myself and my former spouse, not only for the good of myself, but also for that of my son and family.

Forgiveness, therefore, is and should be a huge part of our lives.  How often do you forgive others and yourself?  What are the ways in which you forgive?  Do you willingly accept forgiveness when it is offered to you?  Do you seek to keep a healthy perspective in mind, body, and spirit by recognizing and forgiving yourself and others? 

Also, when you forgive, do you help yourself by expressing expectations of those who have wronged you so that they understand and respect you more, thereby reducing your own vulnerability to them?  And, are there times when you may not have done anything wrong, but are still able to ask forgiveness so that it will help improve the situation or assist another in feeling better about themselves – it takes a person of strong character to do that, even if he or she is further blamed or wronged.

Forgiveness is an act on which we must place greater value.  Forgiveness is freeing and healthy for our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits.  Forgiveness is something that we should practice each day, in asking God to forgive us, in requesting others to forgive us, and in forgiving and being more loving to ourselves.  We must remember that we are all human; all of us are fallible.  Therefore, we must continually forgive, as Jesus taught and instructed us, so that we may, in turn, be forgiven.

References

Fairchild, M. “What does the Bible say about Forgiveness?”  March 20, 2012.  http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/bibleforgivenes.htm

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.