“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.

“How do you Treat Others?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

If you are uncomfortable with people or issues, do you just stick your head in the ground?

I love this picture.  I just think it’s so funny, but also sad.  Locating it today while reading a fellow blogger’s post, I thought it appropriate to borrow for my own post on how people treat each other.  Too often, people think ill of, mistreat, and/or misjudge each other.  Like this ostrich, for many people, it’s just easier to stick one’s head in the ground, so to speak.  Then, people are free to misjudge and mistreat each other because they refuse to see, understand, deal with, or cope with others and issues. 

In the past year, I have worked hard at and have achieved a presence on LinkedIn.  My connections span more than 800 people around the world, representing people of all backgrounds and professions, with all types of interests and beliefs.  LinkedIn provides me with a vehicle to connect with others – of similar and different interests and backgrounds – throughout the world.  It also provides me with a professional support system for those who are like-minded, and who stand up for causes for which I also support and in which I am active. 

On a smaller scale, I have also worked to achieve a much smaller presence on WordPress with this blog.  Admittedly, I have not worked hard at it, and that was not my intention.  However, it has been my intention to share, educate, and inform about causes in which I believe, views that I hold, and certain life experiences.  It has been refreshing, energizing, and inspiring to connect with and be supported by others who share similar beliefs, by others who work to further certain causes, by those who stand up for and take action for the good of others.

What is particularly interesting, and perhaps somewhat saddening and discouraging, are those folks who place roadblocks in the way of understanding, relating, empathizing, and/or simply communicating a good and/or supportive word.  What I have noticed is that many people who are aware of the causes that I support, as well as what I say or communicate which may not be what they want to hear, stick their heads in the ground, similarly to the ostrich in the photo. 

Because these folks feel uncomfortable with hearing about, knowing about, and/or even communicating about issues related to bullying, retaliation, child physical and sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexism, sexual harassment, women’s and children’s rights and welfare, and women’s equality, they misjudge, mistreat, turn away, and put up roadblocks to a greater understanding and awareness surrounding these issues. 

These folks have already made their judgements and/or misjudgements about me as the messenger, advocate, and activist, as well as about the issues.  Once they have turned themselves off, it is typically like talking to a wall to encourage and promote interaction due to their discomforts and unnecessary judgements.  It causes me to wonder how discouraged and disappointed Jesus – a wonderful, compassionate, innocent, and loving man – must have felt when so many people turned against him and condemned him.

Sadly, I have experienced certain people whom I had considered friendly and/or friends to be avoidant or mute, lacking in interaction and communication, even turning away and shutting me out – simply because they are uncomfortable with those issues, what I communicate about those issues, and/or that I am at all associated with those issues.   Is it so uncomfortable to them to communicate with and/or interact with another individual who supports improvement in each of those areas?  For many, I see that the answer is, “Yes.” 

Perhaps, too often, people have their own issues and problems with which they are dealing, and they are unable to deal with or cope with hearing about, supporting, and/or advocating for positive change in those areas.  They, therefore, may misjudge, mistreat, and/or blame the messenger.  To me, such actions reflect that people, too often, may react toward certain people or issues without fully listening to, understanding, and/or delving more deeply through the superficial layers that they solely wish to perceive.  And, as a result, such reactions are disappointing and discouraging. 

I feel sympathy for those who do not understand, for those who blame the messenger, for those who – by their own inability to cope – are unable to stand with and support others who are working toward positive change for everyone.  It always saddens me to “lose” a friend simply because I have exercised my right to free speech and have shared particular hard truths with them about certain issues.  When people are unsupportive of others who promote activism and positive change for important issues, respect for and confidence in them by the activists is also lost.  That stated, I am not one who is afraid to tackle the tough, challenging issues.  And, I have a profound appreciation and respect for comrades who stand up for others in order to achieve improvement and positive change. 

Throughout my life, there have seemed to be few who are willing to take risks and go out on a limb to promote important causes, and be activists and advocates for improving various areas of human life.  Therefore, it is, indeed, disappointing to witness so many who are content and satisfied with simply walking away from such issues, refusing to become more educated about them, thinking such things won’t happen to them, turning their backs on others because someone says what they don’t want to hear, thinking they can avoid the people and the issues – until they have personal experience with them.

I find that most people are conformists, going with the flow, not wanting to make waves, not rocking the boat.  In order to make our world better for ourselves and our children, we must be willing to take those risks in standing up for and supporting what is good and right.  We must denounce those who harm others in any way.  We must be role models for them and provide education in better, more successful ways to respond and react toward injustices, crimes, and/or mistreatment – ranging anywhere from poverty to bullying to rape and murder.  We must remain compassionate, kind, and nurturing, but also honest, direct, assertive, and active. 

All of the issues that I have identified in this post are likely those that many people do not wish to hear, however such issues must be addressed in such a way that will make the future better – not worse – for those who come after us.  The issues are reflective of those relating to human rights, feminism, and social justice.  They are good and important issues, as are the messengers who advocate for and support positive change regarding them.  Therefore, let people not blame the messengers of the news that they don’t want to hear, but let them get involved, become more educated, achieve greater understanding, and work to create improvement and positive change so that the world is a better place for everyone!

References:

 Ostrich photograph.  From “All Tied up and Nowhere to go: Ostriches lead us to our doom.”  September 26, 2012.  http://atung.net/2012/09/03/ostriches-lead-us-to-our-doom/.

“People in Authority who don’t Listen aren’t Leaders” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

People in positions of authority who don’t listen to or consider others aren’t leaders.  It’s as simple as that.  It seems that there are so many more people in our world who don’t listen to or consider others than there are those who do.  What is extremely discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing is when an individual of common, everyday status approaches and/or comunicates with someone in authority about a serious issue or concern that can be changed or improved, and that person does not listen, does not care, and/or does not even consider what the other person has to say.  We, therefore, must be very thankful for those people who do listen – whether or not they are in positions of authority and whether or not they are in a position to change a situation for the better.  Those people seem to be getting fewer and fewer these days.

In my own experience and throughout my life, I have met, encountered, interacted with, and/or communicated with many people in positions of authority who, by their refusal to listen to, consider, and/or understand certain issues and concerns, are not true leaders.  Leaders are those people who take charge and lead all others in a positive direction of beneficial development. 

Sometimes, however, people in authority and in positions of leadership are unwilling and/or unable to listen to and consider the needs, issues, and concerns of others.  Therefore, in my definition, they are not true leaders because they are unable to be open to truly hearing, considering, analyzing, and understanding issues that may bring about positive change that may and can be good and beneficial for everyone.  People in positions of authority who are closed to others and who shut others out, by this definition, are not leaders.

It seems that there are sometimes too many people in our lives who are unwilling or unable to hear what we have to say.  Perhaps our information is too uncomfortable for them to hear, or they are threatened by it in some way, or they are unable to cope with it.  That is unfortunate for everyone because they are missing out on an opportunity to do something good for others.  They, therefore, don’t even realize that they have missed a chance to improve something, to help another, and to potentially assist many others.  They believe that they know the only right and correct way; they have closed themselves off from others, and believe they are protecting themselves from others. 

In my life and experience, I have met, interacted with, and communicated with several people who, through their own discomforts, feelings of being threatened in some way, inability to cope, and/or simple refusal to listen caused them to shut me out, turning away from me.  These people have included certain authority figures in higher education, churches, schools, businesses, family and friends, and even former intimate partners.  When people are unable or unwilling to listen to information they don’t want to hear and/or with which they are unable to cope, they may shut you out, turn you away, deny you, discredit you, and/or even demonize you, simply for being direct, honest, truthful, and assertive.

It is, therefore, extremely important to be thankful and grateful for those who ethically and morally consider and listen to others, particularly when their information has, not only the potential to influence and assist that person in a positive way, but the potential to benefit many others, as well.  There are some individuals out there who can and do listen.  There are some folks who take positive and beneficial actions to help and protect others when they are informed about it.  There are certain people – within the same and other groups that I mentioned above – who do act to help and benefit others, who seriously consider and analyze others’ actions and information, and who do not demonize and condemn the individuals who are providing truthful and honest information, even though it may be information that they don’t want to hear.

It is these people for whom we must be grateful.  For these people, we must recognize and be aware of their personal and internal gifts and talents of truly being leaders.  True leaders are strong in the face of persecution, even though others may have condemned and demonized them simply for stating or doing something with which others disagree or with which they are unable to cope.  We must recognize, therefore, that the majority may not always be right or correct, ethical or moral, honest or truthful.  What we must recognize is that even one or a few people can be correct over the majority, that perhaps even one or a few people who stand up for what is right even in the face of abuse, injustice, and persecution may have only the best interests of everyone in mind, not just that for themselves. 

If you are a leader of a group, organization, business, or institution, how do you behave and what do you say to others in order to include, consider, and hear the concerns and issues of others?  How do you examine, analyze, and research the information that has been given to you?  Do you simply believe what others have to say about another person, simply because they may be in a potentially powerful position of authority over the other person?  People in positions of authority are not always right and correct. 

I identify Pope Benedict XVI as a good example of a person in authority who does not always do what is right and correct, in hiding and covering up the abuses of clergy throughout the world.  I identify college or university presidents who do not listen to students who have concerns or issues about crimes committed against them by other students, or other college officials who will not consider other serious issues brought to their attention. 

I identify school principals who bully teachers and students because they do not wish to draw attention to particular issues.  I identify clergy who shut others out simply because they are unwilling or unable to cope with what others have to say.  I identify governmental and political figures who won’t consider a different and perhaps better or more fair way of doing things in consideration of others.  I even identify family members or relatives who are unable to hear or consider truthful and honest information, particularly when such information may potentially be to their benefit. 

It is, therefore, very important to cultivate and maintain relationships with others who do consider, hear, listen to, and understand you.  When you are completely honest and truthful with yourself, others who are also honest and truthful will recognize and appreciate your truth.  It’s like the old sayings go, “Birds of a feather flock together,” and “they are like peas in a pod.”  People who are similar understand, appreciate, and respect each other.  People who stand up for what is right and correct find, understand, and appreciate each other, as well. 

Thank you to all those who are able to hear, understand, listen to, and consider the truth, and what is right and good, even if it’s something that you don’t want to hear.  For those of you who are unable to do so, I pray for you that your eyes, ears, and mind will be open to what others have to say.

Book Review of “Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military” By Dr. Mic Hunter (Review By Michele Babcock-Nice)

“Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military” By: Dr. Mic Hunter

In Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military, Dr. Mic Hunter provides extensive information, citations, and experiences of some of his clients related to sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment within the U.S. military.  In his book, Dr. Hunter covers many topics related to these issues, including hypermasculinity; hazing; homophobia; gender and status bias; sexism; aggression; misogyny toward women and homosexuals; domestic violence; and use of and even staging of prostitution in the military.  Overall difficulties and rejections experienced by veterans in seeking support, therapy, and aid from Veteran’s Administration hospitals in treating post-traumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders as a result of sexual trauma experienced in the military are also presented.

Dr. Hunter has so extensively researched and written on the topics of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault within America’s military that I can hardly begin to incorporate all of his topics in my review of his book, though I will make my best attempt at doing so.  My best suggestion is to read his book since every page – page after page – is chock full of relevant, honest, direct information to his work.  For readers who may be unsure or doubtful as to the great extent of sex crimes that occur in America’s military, Dr. Hunter’s book can be a shocking and/or painful eye-opener to the truth of what occurs.  Dr. Hunter directly, professionally, and expertly deals with all of the issues presented, not treating the issue lightly, nor with kid gloves.

As I began reading Dr. Hunter’s book, some of my first thoughts about many military men’s views about women include that most of the men believe that, due to their physical strength, sexuality, and attitudes, they are superior to women.  They believe they are more powerful and influential than women, and that they have the capability to inflict more damage on those whom they believe are inferior. 

Many military men believe that because aggression and violence are part of their job description in wartime, these negative, destructive, and criminal behaviors can also be employed in everyday interactions with others.  And, in general, it is incorrect for men to believe that just because a woman does not “protest” something, does not mean she “agrees” with it.  This is because many women have learned that the more they protest something, the greater and more intense and severe the wrongs that are committed against them.

Early on in his book, Dr. Hunter provides many positive reasons for military recruits to enlist.  To the outside world – the general public and society that has not had experience in or with the military – these reasons appear to be very healthy, beneficial, and helpful reasons for joining the military.  Once one becomes a member of the military, however, it’s true nature is often revealed in very negative, traumatic, and criminal ways – with one’s own peers and/or superiors committing sexual attrocities against them; instilling them with injury, fear, and a sense of betrayal; and denying them the health, medical, and mental assistance that is needed for their optimum recovery.

In his book, Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military, Dr. Hunter further identifies and shares “reasons” for men’s backlash against women, why they sexually harass women, and why rapists rape women or men.  Dr. Hunter also shares that there is an exaggerated and unreasonable fear of homosexuals in the military, and that most men who are heterosexuals are responsible for the greatest amount of sexual harassment.  He also states that “heterosexual” men are more likely to rape – a woman or a man – than are homosexuals. 

Later in his book, Dr. Hunter further states that the impact of rape seems to be higher on men than on women.  In this, he means that the emotional toll of this sex crime appears to be more severe when experienced by men since men generally believe they should be strong enough to ward of their attackers, and that they should be “man” enough to protect themselves, even though they may be handcuffed, restrained, and gang raped by several men in a brutal sexual attack.

Dr. Hunter provides a chart that lists and identifies the effects of rape and sexual assault.  Incredibly, the military courts generally do not convict those members of the military who have committed sex crimes, providing them with a clean record when they leave military service and re-enter civilian life.  For those sex offenders in the military who are convicted of rape, their sentences generally amount to only a few months in jail.  When men think and act aggressively and violently with their penises rather than rationally and respectfully with their brains, such a travesty of justice appears to be common in the military regarding military sex offenders.

For these and other reasons, there are women in the military who encourage other women not to report being raped, gang raped, sexually assaulted, sexually abused, and/or sexually harassed.  It would therefore appear that sex crimes are the norm in the military, and that most sex offenders in the military get away with their crimes, only to commit them again, and perhaps with greater severity in the future, to potentially include the death of their victims.

Dr. Hunter reports that nearly all of those who rape others generally have no problem with what they have done.  And, in fact, the rapists feel good about having raped another person, despite the damage, injury, fear, and/or even death caused to their victims! 

The organizational culture of the military and attitudes of many military personnel, Dr. Hunter believes, are responsible for the tolerance and acceptance of, and lack of seriousness toward sex crimes that occur in the military, between members of the military.  Such a culture goes far beyond sexual harassment, sexual objectificiation, homophobia, and hazing, to include the encouragement and acceptance of institutionalized sexual violence and aggression by military members toward other military members. 

Such an institutionalized, organizational culture that is desensitized toward respecting the physical and sexual rights of others, including it’s own, has also indirectly led to the deaths of female servicewomen.  An example of this is reflected in a situation in which female servicewomen would not leave their tents to use restroom facilities while stationed in the Middle East due to fears of being raped by their own “comrades,” contributing to their deaths from dehydration in 120 degree F or higher heat during sleep.

The end of Dr. Hunter’s book spotlights military members experiences with having been sexually abused and/or assaulted, and the effects such sex crimes have had in their lives.  Several military veterans share heart-wrenching, extremely painful, and agonizing stories of their experiences.  One veteran shared a statement of fearing comrades more than the enemy in war.  Another grapples with being able to forgive himself for having been sexually assaulted, in order to move on in his life in a more healthy manner, mentally.  The assumption that can be made upon reading all of the survivors’ stories is that anything goes in the American military because most military sex offenders can and do get away with their crimes.

Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military, by Dr. Mic Hunter is a wonderfully ground-breaking and extensive work on the problem of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault within the military of the United States.  Dr. Hunter’s approximately 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist, primarily treating individuals who have addictions and/or who have experienced sex crimes, contribute to making him an authority on sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, including that which occurs within the military since he has treated many veterans who are clients coming to him for assistance and support regarding their experiences. 

Dr. Hunter’s book is an amazing, well-written, and beneficial resource for all those who are coping with the effects of sex crimes, for those who are supporting others who have experienced sex crimes, for those who are interested in military history, and for all those who are considering military enlistment.  I recommend Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military, by Dr. Mic Hunter, highly and without reservation as another of his must-read works regarding sexual trauma.

Reference

Hunter, M. (2007).  Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military.  Barricade Books: Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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.

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.