A Story of Light

♥ We are all conduits of light ♥

Category: Art Therapy

The Shame Is Not Yours.

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”

-Nelson Mandela

The Shame Is Not Yours, It Is Theirs.

A year and a half ago I started a journey, one of a lifetime that has led me dead center and me steadfast into what is shaping out to be the height of one of my major destiny points.  The soul work it took to get here cannot be described by words.  Interesting enough, through all of this self-work what I have found is what I have suspected all along.  It isn’t about me, it is about us.  Us, as in you and I and this entire universe.  I had my opinions but through this work I have come to realize indefinitely that our society is only as strong as our weak, our sick and our deprived.   What I mean by this is if we allow those who need help, those with mental, emotional and physical illness to remain under the radar without appropriate aid, if we continue to turn a blind eye to those creating and responsible for this trauma, we as a society will continue to suffer immensely as a whole.

In the last year and a half I have now worked in residential homes for persons with HIV and AIDS, mental illness and substance abuse.  I currently work with children of all ages who have suffered severe trauma and as a result have severe mental, emotional, behavioral, developmental and physical disabilities.  As well I now work with adult males in one of the largest jails in the world.  A commonality the individuals I have worked with and currently work with have is their history of abuse, specifically sexual abuse.  At this point I have met with hundreds of individuals in various settings and all of them have had a history of some form of abuse.  The more I work the more I find I have a common message for each individual I have come to work with, a phrase.  It is the same for all of those who never had a chance at any semblance of normal or healthy.  The message is, “The Shame Is Not Yours, It Is Theirs And It Is Not Your Fault.”

Child-Abuse-Facts

However, it’s rarely that simple.  Therapeutic bonds take time; sometimes it takes weeks, months or years to develop the trust needed for someone who has ensued trauma, to believe that kind of truth.  The truth that they didn’t ask for the pain or the betrayal at the hands of someone they often trusted.  That is wasn’t anything they did but rather a serious injustice forged upon them to hold by another who in all probability suffered trauma in their own right at the hands of another.  It is a vicious cycle and the culprit is our silence.  At some point in life we are all guilty of remaining silent at the expense of someone who needed our voice.  However this post isn’t about setting blame but it is more of a request, a plea rather, for all of us to become united as a society, to care, to care enough to speak up for ourselves and for those who have trouble speaking for themselves.  We can sit for hours and discuss the betrayal we suffer daily by our broken system of justice, metal health and so on, but unless we back our words with action towards change we will continue to be bystanders.  The only way to successfully see positive change is to become apart of it with the positive message that we will not stop until it gets better.

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I believe that lack of information is a contributor to people’s indifference.  As I became more educated at the horror people have experienced and experience everyday, my empathy and compassion grew along with my will for change.  That will became action and an intent to create more change in my life and the lives of others, and now this has become a huge part of my life’s work which will grow even bigger and bigger with time.

Some of the truths I have learned were hard to believe, but that was my personal problem because whether I believed in them or not didn’t matter, these atrocities are happening everyday, every minute and every second.   Nearly five children die every day, EVERY DAY, just in America alone from abuse and neglect.  Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children.

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General Statistics

•   A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds

•   More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.

•   It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.

•   Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.

•   More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.

•   Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

•   About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

•   In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.

 

Child Abuse Consequences

•   Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

•  Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking, putting them at greater risk for STDs.

My focus thus far through art therapy has been to work with those who have suffered trauma.  I cannot stress this truth enough, that almost every single patient, client, inmate and student I have met with that suffers from a mental, emotional or physical illness or developmental disability has at some point in their life experienced trauma, predominately sexual trauma.  Researchers have found 1 in 6 men and 1 in 5 girls have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18 and that is a low estimate since it doesn’t include noncontact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects.  This means that at any given moment, if you are in a room which holds 6 men chances are one of them has been sexually abused in some form and the same for girls.  When you think of it in this context, the reality is appalling and completely unacceptable.  The consequences of these injustices, especially upon our children have severe consequences for all of us.  The patients I work with within a jail setting have mental disorders, which have played large roles in their violent and unlawful acts.  Many of these crimes committed could have been prevented if there was a system that was functional in helping those who are mentally ill.  Not just those who have money, or insurance but those who have nothing left to give.

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Child Abuse & Criminal Behavior

•   More then 14% of all men in prison and more then 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population.

•   Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

“In a study of young adults who suffered child abuse or neglect, 80% met criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder by age 21, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.

In a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study of homeless youth, it found that 46% of those surveyed had escaped a home where they suffered physical abuse, and 17% left because of sexual abuse.

Young people who were victims of child abuse and neglect are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancies, delinquencies, and to suffer mental health problems. They are more likely to perform lower in school, to engage in high-risk sexual behavior, and to use alcohol and illicit drugs.

According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused and neglected children were 11 times more likely to engage in criminal behavior as teens, are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested for violent and criminal behavior as an adult, and are 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for one of many forms of violent crime.

As adults

Adults who suffered child abuse and neglect can develop allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers, in addition to other physical disabilities because of poor health caused by the abuse.

Child abuse and neglect have been associated with panic and dissociative disorders, attention deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder, depression, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder in children and in adults who suffered abuse.

Adults who were abused or neglected as children are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs during their lifetimes. A study found that as many as two-thirds of individuals in drug treatment programs reported being abused as children.

Continuing the cycle of abuse

Researchers estimate that one-third of abused and neglected children will grow up to abuse their own children when they become parents.”

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It is one thing to read about it, but through my work I have been witness to these statistics myself.  It is disheartening to see this first hand, but now that I have found art therapy and am witness to the incredible impact it has on so many every day, I know I have made the right choice in choosing a modality that can help bring about change and heal those willing to receive.  Every action towards a change in our system of recognizing the injustice preformed everyday is an action towards a better day for all.  Even if that action is speaking out, sharing this blog or having a discussion about what’s happening.  It can be uncomfortable and a lot of people may not want to hear about it but that is too bad, because those of us who are set on creating change are seeing it through, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for others or ourselves.  If the injustices of others is a soft spot for you, especially those victim to physical or emotional abuse, know that you are not alone.  There is an army of us fighting this good fight and we need more, will you join us?

“The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren,

and to do good is my religion.”

 Thomas Paine

 

Love and Light,

Jennifer

Reporting abuse?  Find the links below:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/reporting.cfm 

http://www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/child_safety/prevent_abuse.shtml

http://alcoholism.about.com/od/children/qt/Abuse_New_York.htm

http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/PG20.htm

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.afsp.org/

http://www.aftersilence.org/reporting-rape.php

Sources

 

http://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/child-abuse–incest-55/child-abuse-statistics–facts-304.html

 

http://www.childhelp-usa.com/pages/statistics

 

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/NCANationalStatistics

 

http://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics

 

 

 

Image Links

 

http://www.myinterestingfacts.com/child-abuse-facts/

 

http://pub209healthcultureandsociety.wikispaces.com/When+Children+Kill+-+Nature+vs.+Nurture

 

http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/child-abuse-awareness-sitting-room-15854155/resizes/1024/

I Trust You.

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“Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.”  ~ David Armistead – Professor

A child is born with a knowing, an inherent trust, a love that is either both reinforced and nurtured, or stunted, unmet or even denied.  A child is born with the capacity of encompassing complete and utter trust for everyone and anything.  Its faith is birthed with its inception; it’s first heartbeat and breath.  If a child is raised with a family that has reinforced this preexisting state, this inherent trust then the child will live, move, act through this belief system, for it is given no other reason to believe otherwise.  I was reminded of this while playing games with my baby cousin of 18 months.  It became apparent to me that no matter what, she knew I would catch her, as she would leap into my arms off the bed.  Even with my back turned and in running distance, she knew I would do absolutely anything possible to be there as she leaped forward.  She never expected anything less.  She trusts me with her life completely.  This kind of love reaches deeper then any root, stretches farther then any horizon and lasts far beyond any one lifetime.

What of the kids that have never had this reinforcement?  Those who do not know what it feels like to have a love and trust behind them, to know that if they jump and when they jump there will be someone there to catch them no matter what.  Through my work I have observed the life of children who were never given a chance.  Whose pure and inherent trust was lost, when the hands expected to catch them, did not.  On the streets we see it all of the time.  I have had this discussion many times, it seems we are always privy to public displays and situations where children are being mistreated, yelled at, and cursed at, spoken down to, beat, and much worse. Many times these children are less then 8 years old.  If these parents are performing and treating their children this way publicly, can you even dare to imagine what goes on in their private lives?  Freighting.  The hurt, embarrassment and long term emotional damage is inescapable in these cases and leads to a future string of emotional and physical abuse for the innocent who have no idea how to process such harsh mistreatment and injustice.

We are the builders of our children, our children’s children and all of those connected.  We are co-creators of their character, their judgment of themselves and others, their measure and value, we help to create the system in which they use to walk through their lives and most importantly we help to build their beliefs and experiences of love and trust, not only for themselves but for all those around them.  It is our responsibility, and what many refuse to acknowledge, our privilege to nurture and raise each child with the knowing that they are eternally loved and capable of absolutely everything.

When we choose love, we are actively building a nation of children that will help to end ailments, war and many other injustices.  What so many choose to ignore is that, it starts with us.  People find it hard to conceive that we hold that much power, but we do.  These innocent, trusting children are built with everything needed to come out as pure light, loving to the up most capacity.  It is up to us to hold that light and love for them so that they can reach higher and go further then all who have come before them.

We hold the power, I trust you, I trust that you will do the right thing and love each child wholeheartedly.

“When a family is free of abuse and oppression, it can be the place where we share our deepest secrets and stand the most exposed, a place where we learn to feel distinct without being “better,” and sacrifice for others without losing ourselves.”  ~ Letty Cottin Pogrebin – Editor, Writer

Please, if you ever witness any injustice towards any child, report it, you will be saving lives!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Links below to those helping fight and save our children:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/how.cfm

http://www.safehorizon.org/index/get-help-8/for-child-abuse-38.html

http://www.newyorkcenterforchildren.org/

http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301295/k.BE9A/Home.htm

http://www.childhelp.org/

http://www.childhelp.org/

Love and light,

~ Jennifer

**Photo credit – http://www.multiculturalchildren.org/project-introduction-overview-2/**

If Lincoln Could Speak What Would He Say?

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Well, if you are fortunate enough to live in New York City, you could find out for yourself.  The southern plaza section of Union Square Park is home to the Lincoln Statue Monument and from now until Sunday December 9th 2012, it appears Lincoln will have a lot to say, and for all the right reasons.  The public art project “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection,” by Polish artist Krzysztof Wodizcko features a video projection onto the 142-year-old Lincoln statue, of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans that have been interviewed for Krzysztof Wodizcko’s “The Veterans Project.”  Some of the projects focus lies within the psychological effects of war, not only on its solders but also to all of those directly connected to veterans who have experienced trauma, including us.   As well, the project touches upon wars political and social ties.   “The Veterans Project“ and Krzysztof Wodizcko’s “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection” brings to light the harsh truth that the trauma experienced by veterans and their families goes grossly unrecognized.

These veterans host a number of trauma induced mental disorders that would normally prevent them from being able to tell their stories with such depth, yet some how they found the strength enough to come forth.  They are survivors, telling their stories and whether they say it personally or not this is their plea, a plea for all to pay attention regardless of ones stance on war because it affects everyone and everything.   If you happen to be in New York City, you have until Sunday night to view this public art exhibit.   I went with some friends from school and was deeply moved.   Do yourselves a serious justice and see this exhibit in its entirety however possible.   Broaden your awareness and then spread it like wild fire.

The following videos are a few clips I have taken from Krzysztof Wodizcko’s public art exhibit “Abraham Lincoln War Veteran Projection” exhibit.”   Unfortunately, these clips do the public art exhibit absolutely no justice however, I feel it important to be able to present a glimpse into this project.

 

As well, I have included a video of Krzysztof Wodizcko being interviewed in 2010.   He mentions the start of “The Veterans Project,” which eventually led to the “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection.”

Love and light,

~ Jennifer

**Photo credit: Maria Niro on Vimeo.**

http://www.moreart.org/artists/krzysztof-wodiczko/

You Have Come For Knowledge, There Will Be Pleasure.

“You have come for knowledge. 

There will be pleasure. Because knowledge is sexy.

There will also be pain. Because knowledge is torture.”

 ~Jeff Noon

 

With knowledge comes awareness, or at least this has been my experience.  In learning about any one particular subject we expand our awareness and broaden our knowledge with our perception in the process.  However, I find that along with the accumulation of knowledge comes the weight of responsibility to act upon what we learn and that is what I feel Jeff Noon was writing about with his quote that knowledge is both pleasure and pain.  I find the desire to share what I have learned, especially in the last year or so, is bigger then ever.  It is not so much that I feel I have found the answers to everyone’s question, it is that I feel I have found the answers to mine and in doing so maybe I can help others do the same.  Maybe I can help to spark some idea or thought leading others to find the answers they seek as well.

I can recount an evening where my sister Tina and I were discussing a case study.  My sister is a school psychologist and thought it would be beneficial if we had discussed some of her experiences and the experiences of her colleagues, being that I had plans to attend graduate school for Art Therapy.  She could see how happy and excited I was at the prospect of this new venture into the next chapter of my life.  My sister knew my intentions were set in the right places but wanted to make sure I understood the severity of the work involved in the field of therapy.  She began to tell me about one particular case study where a therapist had been counseling a child about the age of 6.  They were discussing the child’s home life while the child drew freely on a piece of paper.  Seemingly out of nowhere the child began to imply that she was being molested.

In discussing this case study my body tensed up, my heart dropped and I could almost feel what that therapist must have felt upon hearing such news.  Putting myself in that therapists shoes, coming to the realization that I too will come into these situations and when presented with the reality of the situation I felt in that moment that even though I knew this work could prove rewarding, it would be at the expense of everything I had come to understand or know life to be.  Comfort as a norm would be chucked out the window, never to be heard from again!  All I could think of was how I could one day put all of my intense schooling to work, yet in hearing the details of this case study it was all starting to feel bittersweet.

Having the skill and knowledge to help this small child is paramount for me, or for any therapist, yet at the same time torturous and for many reasons.  The reason most present would be the fact that this child would have to return home for the night before anything could be done.  Secondly, that if the child’s claims were true, there is no doubt that it would be a long and traumatic life changing experience for this child.  For me, this is a prime example of how knowledge can be both pleasure and pain simultaneously, with the prospect of helping the child but knowing that in order for the child to have some semblance of a normal life, she would have to go through therapy or multiple forms of therapy.

Despite the painful awareness knowledge may bring, even in facing the shadows and the darkest places within this field, I now have an even bigger desire and will to help as much as I can.  I attended an art college but I had also touched upon the basics in psychology, philosophy, sociology and anthropology.  Still, I admit I was a bit naïve as to the complexity of the field in which I had entered.  However, that is no longer the case because I chose to expand my awareness through knowledge.  I have never been more interested in the dynamics of art and therapy; I find it fascinating as a form of modality to facilitate change through healing.  Even with my wonderment of the field, I know that in helping others I will find both pleasure and pain, of dark and light, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.   Knowledge forces us to step out of our minds and our comfort zones to help find the strand of overall truth.  This means setting aside our beliefs and emptying our cup, letting go of what we think we know in order to make room for what is.  Unless we develop skill, talent and the moral courage to use it, truth, knowledge and the power to change will remain unseen.  In closing I believe Galileo Galilei said it best…

 “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

    ~ Galileo Galilei

 

♥ Love and Light to you all ♥

~ Jennifer

Some informitive and enjoyable links!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_therapy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge

http://www.childmolestationprevention.org/

**Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Knowledge_venn_diagram.png**