On Having a Difficult Mother (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I wonder how many of you out there can relate to having a difficult mother?  This is a topic about which I have never publicly addressed, however I have privately journaled about it, often, in the past.  I was thinking that, perhaps, it may be somewhat therapeutic for me to put it out there.  So, what makes a difficult mother and how does one cope with her?

Having a difficult mother for nearly 45 years (my entire life) has taught me alot.  Certainly, I am thankful to have my mother and I love my mother, though I recognize that I love her in a manner that is quite emotionally detached.  This is how I have learned to cope with my difficult mother, in order to protect myself, emotionally.

What currently makes my mother difficult is that her behavior can be very critical, negative, jealous, resentful, selfish, abrasive, and stressful.  In times gone by, her behavior was sometimes more than difficult, though I learned to cope with and survive that, too.  Of course, there have been many times in my life in which my mother has been supportive, helpful, loving, and encouraging, though the times in which she has not have been most hurtful of all.

My mother is a person who typically has nothing good to say about anything.  She is a person for whom nothing will please.  A person could knock themselves out making the greatest efforts to please her, and it will never be good enough.  Thankfully, I learned that in enough time (in my teens) to save my own identity from any greater dysfunction or deterioration.

Of course, I have analyzed my mother’s personality and behavior, and I realize that she is who she is as a result of her family, upbringing, and environment.  She is the third of four children in her family, and I believe was likely one who needed a certain amount of attention as a child since she was the youngest for many years before her younger brother was born.  Perhaps she learned to act out for attention, or perhaps she had to fend for herself against her older brother and sister, who seemed to be more bonded to each other than they were to her, as she has expressed.

I further recognize that my mother is her mother’s daughter.  My grandmother “Babcia” was a strong-willed and independent-minded woman, but one whose perspective was also very negative, critical, and pessimistic.  She was further one for whom nothing was ever good enough.  I believe this is where my own mother gets that from.

I came to terms with having a difficult mother many years ago.  I realize that she is never going to change.  After all, why should she?  She is who she is and does not recognize or have any desire for positive change in herself.  She has been the way she is for nearly 72 years, and she is quite set in her ways.

So, I am the one who recognized that, in order to survive, emotionally, I was the one who had to change – and I did.  I changed my perspective about my difficult mother to one that recognizes that she is who she is, she will never change, she does not recognize any need for positive change, she does not realize the hurtfulness and harm that her words and actions often cause, and it is better to readjust my own thinking and behavior not to allow this to negatively affect me.

Consequently, and not out of any actual desire to do so, I have become detached from my mother.  Our society teaches that, typically, mothers are expected to be nurturing, loving, caring, and supportive – all of the characteristics which I reflect to my own son.  However, not all mothers are this way.  I recognize that what I want in my own mother is something that I will never receive.  And so, while it is discouraging and disappointing, it is something that I have accepted.

I additionally recognize that I do not have to be like my mother, as many of her characteristics and behaviors were like those of her own mother – my babcia.  Family is family, and I will always love my family, but I believe there are certain levels and definitions of love.  Love can obviously mean different things to different people.  And, while I love my mother, it is not the same love that I have for my dad.  While I recognize and understand that my dad is always supportive of my mom, even in questionable situations and those that may create increased stress or conflict, I feel more bonded toward him than I do to my mother.  And, I also recognize that it’s okay.  I’m okay with it.

After my son was born, the things that really got to me about my mom, however, were those of her negative and immature behaviors toward him.  There has been many a time where I have put my foot down and have had heated arguments with her about treating my son – her only grandchild – better.  While I won’t go into detail here, some of the manners in which she has treated my son have definitely been difficult, stressful, and unnecessary.

What saddens me the most, though, is that my son is already recognizing that, in order to emotionally-preserve himself from her abrasive words and behaviors – he must also emotionally detach from her.  This is not something that I really want him to learn because I hope that, in the future, he is able to bond with a wonderful woman who will become his wife.  However, I understand and support his need for emotional protection and self-preservation from a woman who is difficult, negative, and critical, and who never sees the harm in others that she causes.  My son is aware of how my mother treated my brother and I when we were children, and she will never treat my son that way, or she knows she risks losing her relationship with us.  It is sad, however, that neither of us can truly be ourselves – and be accepted for it – when we are around her.

I am glad to have a mother, but having a difficult mother is certainly difficult.  It has always been difficult.  This is why I believe that I can listen to other peoples’ problems and issues, and be supportive and understanding.  I’ve had my share of troubles and difficulties in my life, and I can certainly relate to them.  It always shocks, me, however whenever someone comments to me that they believe I have it together, that I do not seem to need anyone (but I do), and that I do not appear to have particular needs.

Perhaps I am good at hiding it, though more often than not, those deep issues are private to me, and are not things that I share with just anyone.  I have to know someone so well that I would trust him/her with my life before I shared some of those deep issues.  And, I recognize that about myself and get the support that I need when I need it, too.  That helps me maintain my own sanity, or I would certainly not appear to be in the “good” mental shape that I would like to believe I am.

So, that’s all I’m going to say about my difficult mother.  I know if she were ever to read this, I would never hear the end of it.  But, at this point, I do not really care.  I love my mother and she knows that – it is just a type of love that is detached and for which I have learned to preserve myself.  I have to believe I am a better, smarter, stronger, and kinder person than I believe my mother thinks I am.  These – and my son and strong religious faith – are that which keep me going, one step at a time.

 

At the Play Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta Today (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Today, Friday, October 9, 2015, I had the wonderful experience of attending one day of the Association for Play Therapy’s Annual Conference, this year, held right here in Atlanta!  Though attending conferences is an expense, for a conference of an association with which I am affiliated to be held so close to home is difficult to pass up.  I am glad that I was able to attend at least one day of the conference, and heard presentations by speakers sharing about topics that are important to me.

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

At the conference today, I heard Dr. Franc Hudspeth’s presentation on lasting, traumatic effects of bullying on children with a focus on attachment, and Dr. Garry Landreth’s talk about deep issues in play therapy.  It was also my pleasure to hear today’s Keynote speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, who also lives in this area around Atlanta – his was uplifting, engaging, and refreshing as a result of his witty sense of humor!

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

I really believe in the power and healing effects of play therapy, not only in child populations, but also in adults of all ages.  Play therapy engages a part of the brain that allows for greater healing and recovery to occur in comparison to therapies that strictly involve talking.  While I support such “talk” therapies, I also and more firmly believe in the therapeutic effects of play therapy because I have observed it to be very effective, particularly in child survivors of sexual abuse.

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

One aspect of the conference that I would have liked better is for there to have been some women presenters on the topics I am interested in and on the day that I was able to attend.  Even in the absence of this, I had an enjoyable day, and my learning and beliefs were further reinforced for me.  I hope to be able to attend other play therapy conferences in the future, although it may be some time due to the expense involved.  And, I hope to connect again in the future with those of you who I met today!

Happy Father’s Day (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View Toward Tenessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, July 2010

View Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, July 2010

May all of you who are fathers enjoy a happy Father’s Day.  Hopefully, you will get a chance to enjoy some R&R, and do something that you like.  A special hat’s off to those of you who spend quality time with your children.  They are the next generation of leaders, and need you to be good and positive role models for them.  Be safe and enjoy this Father’s Day!

Protecting Girls from Sexual Predators by Being Aware and Making Informed, Intelligent Decisions (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Sexual predators come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, the all seem to have the same thing in common – committing sexual offenses against others in efforts to show power, control, and domination, and to make themselves feel good while hurting their victims. Another very sad thing about those who commit sexual offenses against others is that they typically see no wrong in their actions. In efforts to normalize their thoughts and actions, they often appear to be in denial, externally blaming others – including their targets – rather than admitting their actions and taking responsibility for them. They often go to whatever lengths necessary to blame their victims, cover up their offenses, and manipulate others into believing their falsehoods.

In this article, I will discuss the manner in which girls can and do become sexual targets. Boys, men, and women may also be targets of sexual predators, and this article does not minimize their experience, but is to solely focus on how society often fails to protect many of its most vulnerable and innocent members.  Perhaps if parents, educators, and/or others in our society are more aware and informed about the manner in which girls are targeted, more girls will be protected from sexually traumatizing situations that they should never experience.

Research has shown that most individuals who are sexually abused or assaulted are those who are known by their targets. Often, those who target them are family members or “trusted” pillars of the community, including those in positions of great wealth, power, influence, and/or authority. Men (and women) who sexually abuse and/or assault girls are those who believe that their thoughts and actions are correct. Their perspectives and behaviors, however, are pathological, including their actions of grooming their targets throughout time, potentially gaining the trust and friendship of the target’s parents or family, and taking whatever measures possible to see that their inappropriate interactions with their targets are secret, silenced, overlooked, and/or otherwise minimized.

Sadly, many sexual offenders are never caught. Many of these highly esteemed pillars of the community are so powerful and influential – or have such strong ties with a connective network of powerful and influential people who believe and protect them – that they continue their inappropriate actions and sexual offenses throughout their lives, always getting away with them. What is to be done for girls to protect themselves from such people? Nothing? If the girls or their families went to police, they would be laughed at and humiliated out of the police station due to the infiltration into police networks by these powerful and influential people. If the girls and their families publicly identified such people, they risk being financially, socially, and professionally ruined by such people and their large network of supporters with whom they are connected.

Must victims of their sexual offenses continue to suffer in silence? No. It is up to survivors to speak out because, in so doing, the offenders are not protected. The offenders count on tactics of fear, intimidation, and ruination to silence and destroy their victims and their victims’ reputations. Being silent only protects the offenders. By speaking out about offenders, society is informed and becomes more aware of those in their communities – and perhaps, even in their own families – who are so powerful that they get away with their sexual misconduct and offenses. In these ways, at least people are informed, whether or not they believe the truth and heed the warnings about the offenders’ harmful and pathological behaviors.

One way that sexual predators groom and prey upon girls is by sizing up their parents and/or families. If those targeting girls judge that the girls’ parents are unaware, uncaring, weak, or oblivious in any way, then their daughters are prime targets for grooming by sex offenders. Parents and/or other caregivers must be loving and caring toward their daughters, having created an atmosphere in which open and honest trust is shared, in order that these girls feel safe enough to be open with them about any inappropriate actions or offenses performed against them.

Next, parents must not be too free – and should be more guarded – about with whom their daughters spend time and what activities they do. A safe environment in which everyone has passed background checks and drug tests are among the most ideal places for parents to believe their girls are safe, however people must recognize that those with enough money and power who are involved in these environments may have had their offenses undocumented. People must not always trust that the authority, stature, and appearances of those in power are necessarily honest, honorable, and respectable.

Particularly in regard to young girls, people should be aware and informed about those with whom they have interaction and contact. Outside of a girl’s family, there are those in church, at school, and at other community events and even regular family outings, such as to the local grocery store, gas station, or other business, who may target her. People, particularly men, who have regular contact and/or interaction with a girl, long enough to speak with her in a way that gains her trust in some way are those who could be suspected of grooming a girl in order to sexually harm her. Should such interactions be overlooked and/or not perceived, then such grooming will continue and likely escalate. The grooming can escalate to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Then, a host of excuses, cover-ups, and denials begin, as well as a discrediting of the victim.

Men who hold powerful positions, and who are looked to as trusted community members, are sometimes those who commit sexual harassment and/or misconduct against girls.  Some of these men may include priests of parishes that have churches, schools, and children’s activities, as well as millionaire or billionaire members of those parishes who lead and/or participate in church and/or community activities involving children. Those men who are so wealthy, powerful, influential, “trusted,” and “esteemed” in their communities and greater regional areas who perform sexual misconduct against girls have already duped everyone before a girl realizes what has happened, before her family can support and/or defend her (if at all), and before the girl’s healing process begins (if at all). Because these men are unwilling and/or unable to be responsible and accountable for their actions, they deny them and do whatever possible to cover them up, discredit their victims, and continue to victimize others.

The small Catholic parish in my small hometown of Gowanda in Western New York State is one such place of which I am aware that several people have had these experiences throughout a period of decades. To my knowledge, no one has ever officially reported the instances of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault that have occurred there and/or as a result of powerful people who are parishioners there. Many of those who have committed such offenses remain leaders and active members of this parish. A current priest there from Salamanca, New York threatened one former parishioner with Mafia action due to her knowledge of his sexual harassment and pedophilia toward girls. The survivors who have left the parish are aware that the shear wealth and power of those people would extremely outweigh anything they could ever say or do in any futile attempts to obtain justice. In effect, obtaining justice is impossible, and the lies, cover-ups, and misconduct will likely continue far into the future since those particular people are tied to the area.

Therefore, people must always be aware of and informed about others. Sometimes, those who dress well, have money and power, and/or be in positions that are spiritually-supportive of others are the very people who should not be trusted. This is further correct, especially if such men have free and open access to children, and even if they can pass every background check. Just because a “trusted” and “esteemed” man can pass a background check does not mean he does not have a sexualized pathology. People must be active in guarding and protecting children, even in places typically considered safe, such as churches. People must be aware that appearances are not always what they may seem, in order to be activists in adequately protecting children.

This is also not to say that all men who are involved in children’s activities are sexual predators. Certainly not. I recognize that there are many more men of honor and respectable character in our society than those who are not. Thank goodness for that! It is simply that, in a world where children have no rights and are often manipulated, controlled, objectified, abused, and/or sexualized, those vested with their care must be more vigilant and effective in our protection of them. Even those who do all they can and who have the best intentions toward protecting children may be unable to protect them. However, we must always do whatever possible to achieve that end.

An Amazing Day at the Circus! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

Yesterday, my son and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia!  What an absolutely fabulous and fun time we had! The circus performance was so much more and better than I ever imagined it would be!  Oh my gosh!  I have never seen any performance quite as amazing and incredible as that which I saw yesterday at the circus!  I recommend to anyone who can go, to see these wonderful and astounding performances.

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

At the circus, my son and I sat in the third row, right up in front. I got great tickets from StubHub.com for $25 each only a couple of days before the show. It was incredible to save about $40 on the ticket prices, and still get such fantastic seats! I still can’t believe it!  The money I saved was then spent on food and souvenirs. Thank you, StubHub!

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

There were so many performances and shows that my son and I enjoyed seeing at the circus. Alexander Lacey – the lion tamer – put on a great show with several lions and tigers doing many tricks.  We had prime seats to watch as he rubbed a lion’s tummy, and kissed lions and tigers. He also rode through the arena in a fancy, motorized circus car with a leopard that he hugged and kissed!

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

We watched as Joseph Frisco, III, and Mario Bovio superbly-handled up to six elephants at a time. There was one portion of the show in which four elephants stood up on their hind legs, with most of them placing their front feet on the backs of the other elephants. It was really incredible to see!

Some of the Many Circus Performers

Some of the Many Circus Performers

We saw the Tuniziani Troupe perform on the flying trapeze, with at least one performer doing a triple somersault while flying through the air. There were the men of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe whose acrobatics included jumping through hoops that were up to ten feet off of the floor. The women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe skillfully spun and twirled diabolos in the air in synchrony. And, the men and women together formed a giant peacock while either riding and/or standing on top of two bicycles and each other while on the bicycles.  It was pretty neat!

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

The Torres Family, who ride motorcycles while inside a giant steel ball, left my son speechless and myself both amazed and concerned for their safety. Beginning with a group of four motorcyclists, they steadily increased their number up to eight during their final performance.  All of the motorcyclists rode in circular patterns inside the steel ball, while not having any collisions!  Their performances amount to a world record achieved every day!

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Tchalabaev Cossack Troupe gave astounding performances by riding their horses. These riders did not just “ride” horses by sitting on them, but also stood atop of them, sometimes standing with one foot on each of two horses galloping next to each other. There were also performances of men in the group who hung off the horses in what was called the “dead-man rag,” in which it appeared that the horses would nearly kick them. Other performers (two at a time) also climbed over and under a horse while it was galloping. They also performed a five-person pyramid while the horses were at a gallop. It was all pretty amazing!

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

There were performances of clowns, dancers, dogs, goats, and the motorcycle highwire – which was almost directly above us, with no nets – that were also wonder-inducing. My son was amazed to watch a dog jump into a man’s arms from 16 feet off of the floor. Hans and Mariya Klose, and Vicki Zsilak and Alex Petrov, respectively, did a great job with the dogs and goats. The clowns were so funny, too, and kept us laughing. The dancers added even more vigor and vitality to the overall show.  The performances of the goats, dogs, and miniature ponies were great, too.

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

The folks on the motorcycle highwire, riding back and forth, and even spinning around the highwire, were incredible to watch. Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos, the Ringmaster and his sidekick, were the gel that pulled it all together in this cool show. To top it all off, the Ringling Brothers Band played live music during the circus performances!

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

If I might have changed one thing in the circus, it would be for the elephant that wore the mammoth suit to have it removed. Elephants are such wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures, and to see an elephant dressed up in a full-body costume was distressing. Certainly, the animal was alright and was not being hurt, however it leaves me to wonder how much stress it really creates in this creature.

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

The one and only previous time that I had ever been to a circus was a Barnum & Bailey event sponsored by the Shriner’s. I went with my brother and other children on school buses when I was seven-years-old.  I think I remember seeing some elephants, but we were seated so highly up in Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium – and because the adult chaperones with us showed absolutely no eagerness or excitement at all – I don’t remember much of it except getting separated from the group when we left.  Thankfully, I was able to flag down a friendly policewoman who was directing traffic, and she took my brother and I to our school bus. That is the most I remember about going to a circus as a child – being left behind and having to step up to fend for my brother and myself amidst a sea of people. I expect that was the reason I never got to go see the circus again as a child – due to the careless “supervision” I experienced.

Performers at the Circus

Performers at the Circus

So, one can imagine what a wonderful treat it was to take my son and watch such an incredible and breath-taking circus!  Anyone who can go to and enjoy seeing the circus should do so in order to enjoy all of the wonderful and astounding performances that are in store!  Thank you to Nicole and Alana Feld for producing such a wonderful show!

Thoughts on Some Recent Societal Violence (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Talking, writing, and/or teaching about violence in society, and ways to reduce it, are always sensitive issues that tend to stir up many emotions in people.  Unfortunately, many times, emotions sometimes get the best of people regarding situations, and those situations escalate into those that only fuel maladaptive and/or harmful conduct.  Two recent situations that I would like to address include the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, and the killing of a 12-year-old boy (who was holding what appeared to be a real gun) by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.

As a person who tries to view all sides of a situation or issue, I am one who does my best to think through it before addressing or weighing in on the subject.  My approach is the same in regard to the two above-identified issues.  Knowing that these are sensitive and controversial issues that have created tragedy and turmoil, my approach is one that tries to consider and share different perspectives.  These, of course, are views that others may or may not agree with, and I understand that.

Admittedly, regarding Charlie Hebdo, I know little about this company, but can already see that the satirical cartoons published by it may be offensive to particular people.  First, as a Caucasian, Christian, and Westerner, I understand and appreciate people’s freedoms of speech, expression, publication, and the arts.  Even if what is expressed is offensive – and certainly, there are plenty of publications and art mediums out there that are offensive – there are protections on them that are guaranteed by official government documents in many countries.  For people whose cultures may be middle eastern and/or who practice religions other than Christianity – such as Islam, for example – their upbringing may create views that clash with the majority, including rights enacted within countries in which they live.

I am not condoning, nor do I support any kinds of harassment or terrorism – in any forms – however what I am saying is that increased tolerance, understanding, and sensitivity toward peoples and cultures that are not the majority in particular countries must be exercised.  People who commit terrorist actions appear to believe they are actually doing a good thing.  In the case of those who died as a result of the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo, it seems that the terrorists were acting as martyrs, willing to sacrifice their own lives in seeking vengeance and retaliation (but what they likely believed was justice) for insults to Muhammad and Islam.  In their own way (that most likely view as twisted), they believed they were doing the right thing, even though it is completely against Western values in this regard.

An issue closer to home – in Cleveland, Ohio – about which I read, online, today is about a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a police officer.  The boy had been holding and/or carrying what appeared to be a real gun, but was apparently a replica of a gun that sure looked real to me.  I’ve also read about situations in the past in which boys who hold guns, including toy guns that appear to be real, have been shot by police.

First, I express my condolences and sympathies for the boy and his family about his untimely and tragic death.  This is certainly an unfortunate and devastating occurrence that could have been avoided and prevented.  But, what drew me to reading this story are the many questions that I have about it.  First, why is a child holding what would appear to be a real gun?  Wasn’t he taught not to hold anything that would remotely appear to be a weapon?  Why does he want to hold it to begin with?  And, hasn’t he been taught that police officers are trained to shoot to kill in these types of situations?  This boy’s actions were like inviting suicide.

With all of the recent bad news about incidents involving police officers around the country, we must also remember and keep in mind that there are many truly good and helpful police officers who place their lives on the line every day in service to others.  Sometimes, it seems that police in some areas have resorted to using increased and unnecessary force.  Requiring that police are competent in training regarding the de-escalation of violent and potentially violent situations is necessary.  Also, police minimizing, covering up, and/or excusing situations that are clearly wrong and/or which could have been prevented or improved upon only serves to increase public distrust of the very people who are supposed to protect us.

So, that brings me back to the boy who was holding what did appear to be a real gun, but was not.  Parents must educate their children that our society has drastically changed.  In today’s generation, there was the horrific tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in which so many were killed, including children.  In my generation, I noticed the change when the violence at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred.  In a prior generation, the change may have been more noticeable as a result of the students who were killed by authorities at Kent State University in Ohio.  What I’m saying is that police don’t play – they can’t.  Police sometimes have only split seconds to decide on what actions they must take – shoot or not shoot.  And, in my understanding and observations, police typically shoot to kill.  They don’t shoot to wound or they may end up being those who are killed.

Therefore, and as tragic as it is for the young boy who was killed, and his family, children must be taught these things.  Guns and weapons – and things that look like them – are not toys.  In this day and age, people aren’t playing, especially police.  It is up to adults to educate children to act in their best interests.  Yes, this boy did a stupid thing, but it is something that could have been avoided.  Because he did not, he tragically paid for his mistake with his life.  How many more children will be killed by police for holding fake or toy guns because they have not been taught otherwise, are taking unnecessary and dangerous risks, and/or don’t care?  People have to remember that police are going to shoot first, and will shoot to kill – that is their training, otherwise they will become the one who falls.

There are many other situations of violence that have occurred in our society, especially recently, that I could address here, as well, however these are two that have captured my attention because of the manner in which they could have been prevented in the first place.  So, while there is freedom of speech, press, and arts in the West, those from other cultures who now live in Western society may have differing views.  Sadly, they are willing to sacrifice their own lives, take the lives of others, and create turmoil out of situations that they appear not to respect, tolerate, or understand.  Increased tolerance, respect, and sensitivity is needed on all sides in order to improve relations between people of differing backgrounds and cultures.

Lastly, people must not invite tragedy to occur.  The boy in Cleveland who was holding what appeared to be a real gun, but which was not real, lost his life because of his actions.  This boy was wronged by a society and culture that either did not teach him that holding what appeared to be a gun was extremely risky and dangerous, or it was not instilled in him enough that he not do such a thing.  While the boy should have been old enough to understand some consequences and risks regarding his actions, parents must also do more to educate and instill in children not to do such things that invite escalating repercussions that might involve loss of life, regardless of whether the person taking the life was a police officer.

May all who have died in these situations rest in peace, and may society learn from these situations so that they do not continue to occur.

References:

Ahmed, B. (January 8, 2015). Charlie Hebdo and the alarming evolution of terrorism.  ThinkProgress.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/08/3609528/paris-terrorism-evolution/

Cleveland boy, 12, shot and killed over fake gun (January 23, 2015).  CBS News.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cleveland-boy-12-shot-and-killed-by-police-over-fake-gun/

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.