Teaching Respect and Protection of the Human Body: Working to Stop Rape and Sexual Traumas (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Rape, sexual assault, molestation, and other sexual traumas are far too common throughout our society.  So many people have experienced sexual traumas in their lives; unfortunately, it is much more common than might actually be fathomed.  Pediatricians, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and first responders are those who may often have interactions with patients or clients who are victims and survivors of sexual traumas.  They are those who often work with individuals following sexual traumas, though I am one who is also interested in teaching about the respect and protection of the human body in order that sexual traumas may be lessened and/or prevented in our society.

Teaching Prevention of Rape (from http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/08/culture-of-rape-victim-blaming-has-got-to-go/, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Teaching Prevention of Rape (objectives by Zerlina Maxwell, 2013, illustration by Jasmine Mochizuki, from http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/08/culture-of-rape-victim-blaming-has-got-to-go/, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Last year, writer and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell shared five objectives regarding how men, particularly young men, can be respectful of women’s humanity rather than viewing women as sexual objects.  Maxwell’s objectives were in regard to addressing the issue that women do not need guns to protect ourselves from rape because that places the blame on the victim/survivors, rather than placing responsibility on the offender.

I agree with that.  Society still often blames and stigmatizes victims and survivors, though I have observed that to be changing slowly as a result of more survivors speaking out about their experiences.  Speaking out is a good thing for many reasons.  It helps survivors heal, it can help provide information that protects others from experiencing sexual trauma, and it helps reduce and/or eliminate societal blame, revictimization, and stigmas experienced by survivors.

Also important to address is that people of all ages and backgrounds can be sex offenders, whether or not they have been charged and/or prosecuted.  Research that I, myself, have completed in this area has reflected that those who experience sexual traumas by others may be infants, children, teens, or adults.  It is also important to state that males an females may experience sexual traumas, and that those sexual traumas may be perpetrated by males and/or females, as well.  This is not an issue, therefore, that solely affects women, but also is a worldwide issue that affects our entire society.

Yes Means Yes, No Means No (from getacover.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Yes Means Yes, No Means No (from getacover.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

That stated, a focus that I would like to bring to this post is in relation to protecting and educating young men about the humanity and integrity of young women’s bodies.  A particular focus in these respects is one that I direct toward male undergraduates and male entrants into the military.  Perhaps, then, a focus can be on stopping and/or preventing rape, as well as including language that focuses on protecting and respecting women’s bodies.

In my experience as an undergraduate college student, I am aware that there are those college men who rape, who encourage their male peers to rape, and who believe that rape is sex.  Both my experience and that I have observed includes the views of some college men who are fraternity members and football players.  It is the attitudes and behaviors of some of these men who reflect negatively on their peers.

Real Men Don't Rape (from bewakoof.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Real Men Don’t Rape (from bewakoof.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Similar attitudes and behaviors are increasing in regard to many men in the military.  Those who rape and sexually traumatize others cause and perpetuate trauma, particularly when much of our society still appears to blame, stigmatize, and revictimize survivors.  Survivors of sexual trauma should not be viewed as, nor treated as criminals; offenders should receive consequences, treatment, and be held accountable and responsible.

Another focus that I would like to state in this post is to share with young women, teen girls, and others who may be targeted for sexual trauma, ways in which to potentially protect themselves from it.  No matter how much one may work to protect oneself, it may not prevent or stop a sexual trauma from occurring, though such information is more helpful to know than not to.  One red flag to recognize is when a boy or young man is repeatedly pressuring, particularly about sex and/or drinking alcohol.  An objective of teen boys and young men who rape is to get a target drunk and/or spike alcohol with the pill known as the date rape drug.

Prevent Date Rape (from barnesandnoble.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Prevent Date Rape (from barnesandnoble.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

One way to immediately protect oneself from this is to be aware of and recognize when a male is being pressuring regarding sex and/or drinking alcohol, and to remove oneself from that situation as quickly as possible.  Regarding some males, as soon as a female says, “No,” that becomes a cue for them to work more quickly toward raping their target.  So, in order to excuse oneself from such a situation, a female should not draw attention to feeling uncomfortable, wanting to leave, or desiring to return home, but should use some other excuse to leave the situation that will not escalate any potential for the male to commit sexual trauma toward her.

Other ways for females to protect ourselves is to recognize and be aware of males who are members of college fraternities, football and/or other sports teams, and who are in the military.  This also applies to males who serve in professions that support a strong male patriarchy and hierarchy, including the Catholic Church and other employers or volunteer organizations.  Unfortunately, males in many male groups often protect each other with a code of silence regarding offenses and/or crimes that may occur by their members.  When such offenses are brought to the attention of their superiors or the authorities, they may continue to be protected by other males, however it is important for such offenses to be officially reported and documented.

Rally Against Rape in New Delhi, India (from globalpost.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Rally Against Rape in New Delhi, India (from globalpost.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Something else for females to keep in mind is that some males believe that rape is sex, and that if they want it, they are going to “take” it by whatever means necessary.  Because some males believe that their action of raping another is sex, they seem to think they are “being men,” experiencing a “rite of passage,” and being “one of the guys.”  They may brag to peers about their sexual prowess, and how a female who was targeted was “easy,” “slutty,” or “trashy,” thus causing other male peers to become interested in targeting her, as well.  Females must be aware that males talk, and that their talk among each other may not reflect a realistic or accurate portrait of what occurred.  So, when other males appear “interested,” females must be aware that their interest may not be genuine, but may be based only on the inaccurate perspectives received from the males’ peer(s).

A big disadvantage for women in our society is that society teaches girls to always be agreeable, cooperative, and nice, and to look up to males, respecting them and holding them in high esteem.  Certainly, many males are worthy of trust, respect, and being viewed positively.  However, for girls who become women who have been taught to trust, respect, and view positively those who should not be, they may be more easily targeted for and experience sexual traumas.  Those who target others seek vulnerability.  Those who have any potential for being targeted should be aware of this, and also be aware of the other ways identified and described in this post to protect themselves.

Rape Victim-Shaming of Society Football (from pinterest.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Rape Victim-Shaming of Society Football (from pinterest.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Again, when a person experiences sexual trauma, the person who was the offender should be held responsible and accountable, not the survivor or victim.  A person may take every action to try to protect herself or himself from sexual trauma, and it may still occur.  Therefore, it is imperative for the survivor to know that he or she is not at fault and not to blame.  Those who offend have had experiences and/or learning that causes them to believe that it is acceptable for them to commit sexual offenses and/or traumas against others.

If you know of anyone who has experienced sexual trauma, consider going with them to report the crime.  Consider accompanying them to their doctor.  Perhaps, refer them to and go with them to a rape crisis agency.  There are trained professionals who are very sensitive toward survivors of sexual traumas, and there are other trained professionals who are not sensitive at all, but blaming and revictimizing.  Survivors and victims of sexual traumas must be supported on their journey to healing.  And, society must take every possible action to educate about and protect people of all ages from experiencing sexual traumas.  Respecting and honoring others and their bodies is all-important in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.

Some Photos from my Briggs, Staffin, Ritter, and Gale Family Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nearly all of my vintage and antique family photos are from my dad’s side of the family.  Because my mother’s family were immigrants from Poland to Germany to the United States through Ellis Island around 1950, I have fewer than a hand full of vintage photos from my mom’s side of the family, the Krakowiak side, though I do have a few.  Photos and tin types from my dad’s side of the family include those from the following families: Babcock, Briggs, Gould, Hoyler, Staffin, Gale, McEwen, Crawford, Cole, Ritter, Henn, and Goetz.  And, those are just the images, while there are other families who are part of my ancestry, including Rump, Rodgers, and others.

My direct ancestral heritage – in addition to that of Poland from the Krakowiak family – reflects people from England, particularly the families of Gale, Bulson, and McGee; the French and German ancestry of Adelia Staffin; and the German ancestry gained from the families of Gould, Rump, and Henn; and both Hoyler and Ritter (through marriage).   The Briggs’ and Babcock’s were also from England, but had been settled in the United States prior to the Gale’s.  My ancestry can also be traced back to England’s King Henry VIII, as a result of his many marriages; and Clement Briggs, one of my ancestors, who traveled to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1621 on the Mayflower.  The name “Briggs” has many variations; and is believed to have been derived from Saxon William atte Brigge of County Norfolk, England in the 1200s.  That is the furthest back in time that I have been able to trace some of my ancestry.

The following photos and tin types are those that I have selected to reflect some of the many images of my ancestral heritage from the Briggs, Staffin, and Gale families, as I know it, so that the richness of culture, values, and family can be shared and enjoyed outside of my family, as well.  The photos were taken in North Collins and Collins, New York, near Buffalo.  I will make additional posts with pictures reflecting the other families identified in the near future.  Note that for photos that have estimated dates, I have tried to date them as best as possible to reflect an accurate time of when they were taken.

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1840

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1860 (Tin Type)

This is the oldest tin type that I have that reflects ancestors of my family.  The tin type was in the condition seen in the photo when I got it from my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, so I have carefully preserved it as best as I can.

Adelia Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad's Mother's Father's Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1845

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad’s Mother’s Father’s Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1865-1875 (Tin Type)

Adelia was said to have been a short, but fiery and tough woman.  It is possible that she was married through an arranged marriage to my great great grandfather, Wallace Briggs, because they married when they were kids.  It does not even appear that Adelia is 13 years old in the first picture in this post, however it is believed that she and Wallace were married at about that age.  Adelia and Wallace had five boys (Clarence, Howard, Harold, Sumner, and John); and while I am unsure about how Adelia died, it is possible that she died in childbirth.  She would have been 26 when Clarence was born (the second oldest son) and 37 when John was born.  The oldest boy was Sumner, born in 1879 when Adelia would have been 23.

No one in my family seemed to know how Adelia died, or if they did, they did not talk about it.  I know that she seemed to have died at a young age (possibly under 40 years old), and Wallace married a second wife, Veronica, having four boys (Ivan, William, Lawrence, and Leo) with her.  Therefore, nine Briggs’ boys grew up and at least seven of them (all but for Howard and William “Bill”) had families in North Collins, New York in the 20th century.  Birth and death dates that I have, as recorded by my grandmother, for Adelia’s and Wallace’s sons are as follows: Sumner (1879-1939), Clarence (1882-1953), Howard (1886-1944), John (1892-1934), and Harold (1893-1965).

Sumner Briggs married Frances Creed, and they had four children, including Rexford, Emerson “Coon,” Harriet, and Buddy.  Howard Briggs was a bachelor.  John Briggs married Ella Rieckhof, and they had one child, Lois, who married Harold Rodgers.  Lois and Harold had a daughter, Margo, who had a son, Eric, who would be about my age.  Harold Briggs married Emma North; they had a son, James, who married Mabel Orton.  James and Mabel had three children, including Beverly, Barbara, and Bruce Briggs.  I know that Ivan married Louise Gullo, and they had three children, including twin girls and a son, David (who died in the Vietnam War).  Bill married Ruth, but they did not have any children.  I don’t know about descendants of Lawrence or Leo.

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs was the daughter of John Staffin and Phoebe (Wilcox) Staffin; and she was the sister of Mary Ann (Staffin) Smith (who married John Smith) and William Adam Staffin (who married Cora Wickham).  John Staffin was born in 1830 to Adam Staffen (1804-1869) and Anna (Mathias or Mathis) Staffen (1807-1886), and was brother to 10 siblings.  Anna’s father was Johann Mathis, who was a blacksmith, and her mother was Anna Maria (Schmitt) Mathis.  Adam and Anna sailed to the United States through Ellis Island from France in 1840, purchasing land in Collins, New York.  They had left their home in Saarlouis, Germany to sail from the Port of LeHarve in France, coming to the US with $800.

Adam and Anna were schoolteachers, teaching in a large room of their home; and Adam was also a stone mason and farmer.  At that time, the Staffen’s school was the only one in the area, and young men traveled from miles around to be educated by them.  They taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were paid in kind with raw materials rather than money. When Adam and Anna Staffen came to the United States, they spoke fluent French and High German.  They were Roman Catholic, and are buried in the Langford Catholic Cemetery in Langford, New York.

Adam Staffen was one of three sons (Jacob, Adam, and Nikolas) of Johann Steffen (1748-1814) and Susanna Girlinger (1766-1833).  Susanna’s parents were Phillip Girlinger and Maria (Bauer) Girlinger.  Phillip was a farmer in Germany.  Johann Steffen was the son of Simon Steffen (1716-1771) and Catharina (Schwartz) Steffen.  In 1741, the marriage record of Stefan Simon (who changed his name to Simon Steffen around 1847) reflects that he married Catharina Schwartz, and that her parents were Franz Schwartz and Apollonia (Everhard) Schwartz.  Simon’s parents were Dominicus Simon and Catharina (Corsain) Simon.  Around 1838, Simon and Catherine moved from Longville, France to Ittersdorf, Germany, although rule changed from German to French rule at that time.  It is possible that the move and name change were due to political reasons.

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin's

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin’s

Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s parents were Chauncey L. Wickham and Rosene (Spaulding) Wickham.  Cora married William Adam Staffin – brother to Adelia (Staffin) Briggs.  Cora and William had (I believe) four children, including Marion Staffin, Charleton W. Staffin, Burton W. Staffin, and Burnell E. Staffin.  Somewhere along the line, I do not have an exact record of at least one generation of the family, somewhere in-between Anna Staffin marrying Edward C. Ritter.  I do know, however, that Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s grandchildren included Sara Jane Staffin, Mary Ann Staffin, Robert C. Staffin, and Norman R. Staffin.  I just don’t know whose children they were – Charleton’s, Burton’s, or Burnell’s.

Marion Staffin married, though I do not know what her married name was.  I believe that they had a daughter or granddauther, possibly named, Anna, and she married Ed Ritter.  Ed Ritter, to my knowledge, had several siblings, including Fritz Ritter, Herbert Ritter, Mrs. Hoyt Prince, Mrs. Guy Hickey, Mrs. Clarence Simmons, and possibly another sister and another brother, though I am unsure of their names.  Ed and Anna Ritter did not have any children.  To my knowledge, Ed was a butcher, and I have a tin type of him reflecting that.

My Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, standing at left; Others Unknown. Circa 1870-1880.

Tin Type of my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, Standing at Left; Others Unknown, North Collins, New York. Circa 1900-1910.

This is a tin type that shows my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, as a young man, possibly around 1900-1910.  I do not know the identities of the other young men in the image.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo shows my 15 additional tin types from my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, NY, Circa 1930-1940

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, New York, Circa 1930-1940

My great great grandfather owned and operated an ice carting business in North Collins, New York.  He transported blocks of ice to people’s homes for their use in refrigeration, such as in their root cellars.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890 (Photo Taken in Springville, New York)

This is a photo of Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and possibly Howard Briggs, from North Collins, New York around 1890.  It is the best photo that I have of them as young boys.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

From what I understood from my grandmother, this photo was supposed to be a silly picture of three of these Briggs’ young men.  They went on an outing and had several different photos made on this day, reflecting different backgrounds and venues.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

This is a photo of my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, as a baby in 1912 in North Collins, New York.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

In this photo, my grandmother was about two years old.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

This is a photo of my grandmother either on the day of her engagement or wedding to my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

This is the only photo that I have that shows both of my great grandparents, Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, in the same photo.  This was taken in 1946 in Collins, New York at the childhood home of my father, Bruce Babcock.

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, New York, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

This is a photo of John Briggs, a brother of my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, from North Collins, New York in 1917 before he went off to fight in World War I.  There were several Briggs’ brothers who fought in the War, and they all returned home alive.

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

This is a photo of identical twins, Marie and Veronica Briggs, from April 1941.  They are daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs of North Collins.  David Briggs was the son of Ivan and Louise, and died while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. For many years, there was a memorial to David outside the front of the Catholic Church in North Collins, New York.

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Here is  another photo of the twins.  They were about three-years-old in this picture. Veronica was named after her grandmother, Veronica.

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing these photos.  I will make additional posts with photos that reflect the others of my ancestral families that I identified, shortly.

References and Sources:

Anna Emerling Spengler (~1980).  The Emerling Family Tree: Chapter 7 – The Staffins.  Springville/Collins, New York.

Family tin types, photos, and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

The Name and Family of Briggs: Manuscript Number 341 (1984).  New York, NY: Roots Research Bureau, Ltd.

Wentland Funeral Home (1968).  Funeral Card of David I. Briggs.  North Collins, NY: Wentland Funeral Home.

“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.

“Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

It is very upsetting, discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing when one approaches another to seek improvement in and/or resolution to a particular matter, and the other person contributes to being part of the problem by not being understanding or supportive about it, rather than being part of the solution.  I experienced this several times, already, this week in relation to school situations.  The person for whom it is most upsetting and disturbing is the child who directly experiences it.  It is always discouraging to experience situations in which the words and behaviors of school employees are part of the problem.  It is encouraging when their words and actions contribute to solutions.

When a family is spending more money on a private school education for their child, they expect more in every area.  Expected is more support, more understanding, more sensitivity, and at least, fairness, particuarly in situations about which upper administration and administration are informed, regardless of by whom they are informed.  Expected is a positive experience for their child.  Expected is fairness, without bullying of the child by either peers or adults.  As one often finds, unfairness and a lack of sensitivity and understanding may be the norm.  Such a norm should not be tolerated or accepted by anyone, nor experienced by the child.

Therefore, people – particularly those in education who work with children every day – can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  I much prefer that they be part of the solution, and that it be a positive solution at that.  Situations in which a particular child is repeatedly blamed for standing up for himself or herself to peer bullies who belittle and degrade him – especially in a Christian environment that is supposed to promote Christian values – are particularly frustrating. 

Worse is the educator and/or administrator who can say nothing positive about the child who has stood up for himself or herself, and instead, always finds fault and harshly punishes the child.  Such educators and administrators should be ashamed of themselves for their repeated unfairness, for repeatedly supporting the bullies.  Never do those child bullies receive any consequences for their actions; their words and actions are repeatedly supported.  The victim of the bullying is repeatedly blamed.  Psychologically, this is the blaming of the victim routine.  Unnecessarily, it typically happens to the same child or children who stand up for themselves to the bullies.

It was the same for me when I was in school.  A bully provoked, and provoked, and provoked, and finally, when I stood up for myself, I was blamed and punished by school officials.  The bully who provoked the situation received no consequences, and behaved as though she was the victim to garner more support.  The same types of situations occurred toward my parents and other family members when they were in school.  School should not be a place in which people experience bullying, however it is and has been throughout generations.

I try to teach my child to be patient with others, that when others bully or provoke him, it is their problem.  However, it is difficult and challenging for any child to tolerate or accept being bullied.  In a Christian environment, with a Christian background and upbringing, I try to teach my child to turn the other cheek.  However, others typically perceive those as weak who are patient, kind, and who turn the other cheek. 

Unfortunately, and from what I have found throughout my own life experiences, the most productive way to cause a bully to stop bullying you is to give the bully back some of their own medicine.  For people who are kind, nice, caring, and compassionate, it completely goes against one’s personality to do so.  However, in doing so, the bully typically leaves you alone after that.  They discover that their perception of you was incorrect.  They discover that you have surprised them by standing up to their bullying, to their provocations, to their harsh words and actions. 

I want the best for my child.  I want my child to enjoy going to school.  My child receives and excellent education, however I repeatedly encourage the practice of increased sensitivity, patience, positive reinforcement, support, and understanding.  I do this every year.  Some are more supportive and understanding than others; some will never change. 

There are few who hold the high standards that I do of being caring, compassionate, patient, supportive, sensitive toward, and understanding of children.  To those few, I deeply appreciate you; you are part of the solution.  However, it is those who refuse to see and practice a different and better way who are part of the problem, who contribute to the regression and/or detriment of the child. 

Those who are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, should not be in education.  They are not positive role models for children.  In this day and age, we desperately need more and more positive role models for children.  So, when are things going to change for the better rather than for the worse?  Positive change and a reassessment toward needed support for children who are repeated targets of bullies is imperative – it is imperative!  Fairness and support are imperative, rather than unfairness and a lack of support!  It is exactly this type of unfairness and lack of support that leads to bullicide – the suicide of students who are bullied, by peers or by adults.  By then, it is too late, and another life has been tragically lost.

Therefore, I encourage each of you to be positive role models for children, and to always be part of the solution – whether in education or any other area – rather than part of the problem!  Be a positive role model for children.  Be open to thinking of saying or doing things in a different and better way.  Be sensitive toward, and considerate, understanding, and supportive of children, for the sake of their mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical well-being!