“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.”
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,
Reporting abuse? Find the links below: